With Tom Brady Struggling, Patriots Post Historic Rushing Performance


December 23, 2018

FOXBORO, MASS. — It’s not often the New England Patriots win in spite of Tom Brady, but that was the case Sunday afternoon.

Brady completed 13 of 24 passes for just 126 yards and one touchdown to go along with two interceptions in the Patriots’ 24-12, AFC East win over the Buffalo Bills. New England’s 41-year-old quarterback objectively was below average in the AFC East-clinching victory, but it mattered not, as the Patriots cruised to victory on the strength of a dominant run game.

In fact, Sunday’s performance nearly set a record for the Bill Belichick era. Check out this stat from NESN.com’s Zack Cox:

The top Patriots rushing performance with Belichick at the helm came in 2008 when New England gashed the Oakland Raiders for 277 raiders. The franchise record is a 332-yard performance against the Denver Broncos in 1976.

Rookie running back Sony Michel was the bell cow, but he still had considerable help. Here’s the full breakdown of Sunday’s explosive rushing attack:

— Michel: 18 carries for 116 yards and a touchdown.
— Rex Burkhead: 13 carries for 39 yards.
— James White: 8 carries for 41 yards and a TD.
— Cordarrelle Patterson: 4 carries for 66 yards.
— Phillip Dorsett: 2 carries for 13 yards.
— Brian Hoyer: 2 carries for minus-two yards.

“It’s not really about me,” Michel said after the game. “I think it’s awesome when you rush for a lot of yards whether it’s me running the ball, James running the ball, Rex running the ball, even (Patterson) running the ball.

“As long as we create positive plays it’s always great for this team and this offense.”

Burkhead, who has played well since returning from a neck injury in late November, was quick to praise his offensive line.

“They did a tremendous job from the get-go being physical,” Burkhead said. “That’s a great defensive front there with the Buffalo Bills. They opened up holes for myself, Sony, James, and CP going around the edge. Also the receivers laying it out on the line with their blocks as well.”

The Patriots’ passing game was not good Sunday. But they more than made up for it with their blocking, especially on the seemingly endless stream of jet sweeps that gave Buffalo fits.

“It was a great team win,” Patriots center David Andrews said. “The receivers, I thought they blocked hard. That’s really where you get those big runs. We get them going and then the receivers finish it and they allow them to get into space.”

The Bills, as you might expect, weren’t happy about getting jet-sweeped to death.

“I really don’t know how they were getting out there,” Buffalo defensive end Shaq Lawson said. “I thought we filled the sweep up good but (Patterson) is an NFL player too, so we just couldn’t stop it.

“It’s not tough and we know what to do. We just missed a couple of tackles and someone was out of gap. It wasn’t tough at all.”

Added safety Jordan Poyer: “It was pretty damn frustrating … They found a run that they liked and they continued to run the same damn two or three runs.

Whether the Patriots will be able to find similar rushing success in January remains to be seen. Though, it’s hard to see them advancing far in the playoffs with Brady playing like he did Sunday afternoon.

The Patriots can clinch the AFC’s No. 2 seed with a win next Sunday over the New York Jets.

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