FOXBORO -- The New England Patriots dominated the Los Angeles Chargers on the ground in last Sunday's AFC Divisional Round win at Gillette Stadium.
The Pats, led by their offensive line and tight end Rob Gronkowski, opened up huge holes for running backs Sony Michel, James White and Red Burkhead. The result was a whopping 155 yards and four touchdowns on 34 carries (4.6 yards per rush).
Despite the enormous success in the running game, the Patriots still see areas for improvement entering Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
“I think we’ve done a good job of getting the ball rolling," Patriots guard Shaq Mason said Thursday. "There’s definitely stuff we can do better, but I think overall we came together as a group and have done a good job moving the football and running the ball.”
The play of Michel was notable. The rookie running back has battled injury throughout the season, but he looked very fresh against the Chargers. The Georgia product ran for 129 yards and three touchdowns, helping the Patriots take control with a 35-7 halftime lead.
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski caught only one pass from Tom Brady in the win over the Chargers, but he was exceptional as a blocker in the run game. Like Mason, Gronkowski likes the progress the Patriots have made running the football, and he is particularly impressed with the improvement Michel has made in his rookie campaign.
"I feel like overall we’ve done a good job," Gronkowski said. "There’s always room for improvement, always room to get better in the areas that we’ve been doing well too. It’s been great just working with the offensive line and seeing Sony (Michel) just the development he has had throughout the year since training camp. You see it every other week and just how he’s been approaching practice, coming out, trying to get better every single week and it shows. He’s been doing a great job. The offensive line’s been doing a great job and it’s just cool to be a part of it."
We should expect the Patriots to run the ball a lot against the Chiefs. Controlling the clock and keeping the Chiefs' high-scoring offense off the field as long as possible will be critical, and the KC defense gave up 5.1 yards per carry in the regular season -- the second-highest in the league. A ground-and-pound attack would be a good strategy for the Patriots as they try to punch their ticket to Super Bowl LIII.
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.