Bill Belichick usually doesn't want to talk about balance. He doesn't care if the Patriots score by throwing the football or running it. They've had games with Belichick at the helm where they've thrown it 50 times and won. They've had games where they've run it over and over and over again and won.
But the Patriots are currently the fifth-worst team in football when it comes to their yards-per-carry average. They averaged less than three yards per carry against the Jets on Sunday. And while they've scored 106 points in three games, their running game has not been close to the efficient option it was late last season.
Even Belichick would acknowledge his team is going to need more from its running game.
"It comes down to team execution and that includes everybody," Belichick said. "It includes the point-of-attack blockers, the backside blockers, all of the perimeter players, tight ends, receivers and possibly a lead back or not a lead back."
The Patriots were at their best with a lead back -- or fullback -- last season, averaging over five yards per carry following their bye when they deployed their 21 personnel grouping. They embraced a physical running style with two backs in the backfield, but that aspect of the running game could be significantly dialed back with James Develin placed on injured reserve.
Now, with Jakob Johnson in for Develin, left tackle Marshall Newhouse in for Isaiah Wynn (also on IR) and Ted Karras in for David Andrews (on IR), the Patriots are going to have to try to become a more potent rushing attack with backups helping to lead the charge.
On Sunday against the Jets, as Belichick referenced, the mistakes in the run game were widespread. Sony Michel ran nine times for 11 yards and had runs blown up due to missed blocks by everyone from Joe Thuney, to Shaq Mason, to Newhouse, to Karras, to tight end Ryan Izzo and receivers Phillip Dorsett and Josh Gordon.
"Each play is its own entity," Belichick said. "The blocking and the reading of the blocks and all that, even though you run the same play over and over again, and that's why some coaches, and rightfully so, just believe in repetition, repetition, repetition. Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler and guys like that – run the same play over and over and over again for year after year but each play is a little bit different.
"The recognition and the timing between the blockers and the runner and the defense and the leverage they have and the space that's created is different on every play. It's the same – there's a general framework, but it's different on every play.
"We just have to do a better job of executing our running game and just trying to get a little more production out of it, but in the end if we can throw the ball and move the ball and score points, that's fine too if that's what's available. At some point, we're going to need to improve our running game and so we'll keep working on it."
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