EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It's not often the Patriots offense comes out of the gates and runs the ball on three consecutive snaps.

With Tom Brady behind center, it's understandable that the Patriots would want to put the football in his hands and let him figure out what to do with it more often than not. Especially when fast starts are so often cited as critically important on a weekly basis.  

Yet run it three times consecutively to start things on Sunday is exactly what Josh McDaniels called for. Run for seven. Run for two. Run for two. First down.


The Patriots clearly came into their game with the Jets at MetLife Stadium with every intention to establish the run. This is a team that,  still defines its toughness by how well it runs the football, how well it stops the run, and how it covers kicks. And with their 27-13 win behind them, it sounded like the Patriots used this game as an opportunity to re-establish a part of their offensive identity.

Sony Michel said the Patriots coaching staff challenged its players to get things going on the ground this week.

"The challenge was just to be able to run the football consistently," Michel said, "and I think that we did a great job of preparing in practice and it carried over into the game field.”

The Patriots ran for 216 yards on 35 carries, a whopping per-carry average of 6.17. Michel tallied the majority of those, taking the ball 21 times from Brady for 133 yards and a touchdown. 


Against a defense that led the NFL in terms of its three-and-out percentage, the Patriots put together scoring drives of 11, 15 and 10 plays and won the time-of-possession battle 34:26 to 25:34 -- all, in part, because of what they were able to do with their running game.

"That's just us being able to play Patriot football," Michel said. "We want to be physical. When you're physical, you can run the ball, you can throw the ball. It's almost like you can control the line of scrimmage and what you want to do."

The Patriots did what they wanted, running a balanced attack, and making the most of their success on the ground with complementary chunk plays through the air. Brady went 10-for-11 for 123 yards on play-action passes in the game, an 11.2 yards-per-attempt average.


"The run game complements the passing game," Bill Belichick said after. "A lot of those plays look the same. The runs and the passes look the same as far as the blocks and backfield action so Josh McDaniels and the offensive staff did a great job on some of the play designs and complementary actions that work together."

Having Rob Gronkowski back on the field helped the Patriots running game. Having a healthy offensive line -- Shaq Mason was back in the fold after a two-week absence due to a calf injury -- obviously did wonders for that phase, as well. So, too, did having a hard-charging Michel after he's dealt with injury this season. 

Add it all up, though, and what the running game can do for the Patriots passing game moving forward may be the most important of Sunday's developments. A substantive running game can help protect Brady, it can open up easy throwing windows, and it can create explosive pass plays to make that side of the ball more efficient overall. 

Nice as it is for the Patriots to see big numbers from their backs, important as it is to be defined by toughness, for the Patriots to get to where they want to go this season, they'll need to put the football in Brady's hands in critical moments and let him figure out what to do with it.

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