FOXBORO, Mass. — Statistically speaking, Tom Brady had one of his worst games of the season Sunday against the New York Jets.
In a game his team won 24-17, the New England Patriots quarterback completed just 52.6 percent of his passes (his lowest completion percentage since Week 1), threw for 257 yards (a season low) and fired one interception (with a Jets defender dropping another would-be pick).
Fortunately for the Patriots, they received plenty of offensive contributions from other sources.
New England’s running backs put forth their best collective effort of 2017 against New York, with Dion Lewis, Mike Gillislee and James White combining for 119 yards on 24 carries — a healthy 4.96 yards per rush.
“It’s great,” Brady said Friday. “To be able to run the ball consistently in the NFL is really important for every offense. It does take a lot of — I wouldn’t say pressure; it’s just production. If 400 yards of offense is what you’re looking for, and you can get 150 from your running game, you just need 250 (from) the passing game. If you’re getting 50 yards in the rushing game, it means you’ve got to throw for more.”
He added: “The backs are a big part of our offense, and handing the ball off to them is an easy way for us to gain yards if we’re all coordinated and doing the right thing.”
After hardly seeing the field in the first month of the season, Lewis has led the Patriots in rushing in each of the past two weeks. He finished with 52 yards on 11 carries against the Jets, employing a bevy of jump cuts and spin moves to slice through New York’s defensive front.
“His quickness and speed is really top-notch,” Brady said. “He’s got all the ability. He just keeps getting more opportunities and doing a great job for us. He’s been really consistent, had a tough injury — you talk about mental toughness, coming back from that — and he’s really done a great job. Every time he gets the ball, something good’s happening for us, so we’ve got to keep it going.”
Gillislee also put up solid numbers last week (10 carries, 44 yards) but spent much of the game on the bench after losing a fumble in the first quarter. White, known more for his pass-catching ability, was productive in his few rushing opportunities, gaining 23 yards on three carries.
This Sunday night, New England will face an Atlanta Falcons team that limited Patriots running backs to 87 yards on 23 carries in Super Bowl LI. The Falcons, who returned almost every player from last year’s defense, currently are ranked 13th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (102.0) and 20th in rushing yards allowed per carry (4.3).
“Those guys are running hard,” Brady said. “The line’s doing a great job up front, finishing blocks and so forth. And (the Falcons) present some problems in the run game that we’re really going to have to stand up to.”
The Patriots could have another running back at their disposal Sunday, as well, as Rex Burkhead appears to be on the cusp of returning after missing four consecutive games with injured ribs.
Thumbnail photo via Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports Images
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