FOXBORO -- They were the kind of runs that make an old man lean forward in his LaZBoy, pound a fist off his khakied knee and say, “Now, (galldarn) football right there, boys! You run! Past the lips, through the teeth, over the tongue, under the epiglottis, into the throat and down to the belly of the beast! You have a will, don’t you? Impose it!”
The runs in question came on the Patriots' first three possessions through holes neatly opened by an oft-maligned group of offensive linemen.
Runs outside the Bears’ 5-yard line went for 3, 5, 5, 7, 21, 6, 5, 5, 7 and 6 yards. Inside the 5, not so hot. The Patriots had three stuffs, a 2-yard gain and a 4-yard gain punctuated by a Brandon Bolden fumble. So there is stuff to work on. But, it was acknowledged by Bill Belichick, work was also done.
“It was more consistent (compared to the preseason opener against New Orleans),” Belichick said. “More consistent plays, whereas last week we had, whatever it was, six or seven negative runs. We had a couple of longer ones that kind of made the yardage look OK, but when you put those negative runs in the drive you end up in long yardage and can’t convert on third down and give the ball up and it really starts with the negative runs.
“Always our number-one goal is to keep the ball moving forward, to make forward progress, to obviously stay out of long yardage by making positive plays,” Belichick continued. “I thought we did a much better job of that this week. There were a lot of 3- and 4-yard plays that weren’t highlight-looking plays but kept us in second-and-medium, third-and-medium, third-and-short. That being said, we still need to do a better job on third-down conversions, but they were a lot more convertible, if you will, this week than some of the third-and-13’s and 11’s that we had last week.”
The third-down numbers were poor. The Patriots went 2-for-10. And, as Jimmy Garoppolo pointed out, the red zone stuff was also a disappointment.
“I don’t know exactly what we were in the red zone tonight (2-for-5), but we just have to finish some of those drives,” he said. “We got the ball down there, we were moving it well, had some long drives, slot plays, but we’ve got to finish at the end.”
The area gets compressed at the goal line and the chance to crowd the box always makes it a little tougher for the offense. There wasn’t much room to run, nor was Tyler Gaffney -- who carried on three straight stuffs inside the 5 -- real imaginative in his interior running. But overall it was a very good night for the running game (26 carries, 114 yards).
The next test in Carolina will be excellent prep for the opener against the Cardinals. A primer for one of the best defenses in the NFC by playing another one of the best defenses in the NFC. Some blood. Some guts. Knee-punching fun.