Opponents have taken notice of what the New England Patriots’ offense relies on.
And they’ve adjusted.
The Patriots have compiled the second-most rushing attempts in the league this season. It’s propelled them to record the fifth-most rushing yards per game (149.6) and a top-10 yard-per-rush average (4.6 per carry).
It’s even more impressive given the fact that Damien Harris, the team’s leading rusher, has done so at an increased level of difficulty. Harris has faced the highest percentage of carries with eight or more defenders in the box, per ESPN’s Mike Tannenbaum.
The Arizona Cardinals, during the Patriots’ Week 12 win, practically played a goal-line defense with four defensive linemen and four linebackers no matter where the ball was on the field, as noted earlier this week by ESPN’s Mike Reiss.
Harris, the second-year running back, isn’t about to concern himself with something he can’t control, though. After all, no team has been better at taking away what opponents do best like the Bill Belichick coached-Patriots.
“It’s part of the game. Teams make adjustments and teams do things to stop what we do well just like we do for other teams,” Harris told reporters Thursday. “It kind of is what it is.
“We still go out there and try to put together the best game plan to give us success no matter what the defense is, how they’re playing us and sometimes the games have to go a different way,” Harris continued. “Sometimes you’ve got to go out there and run the ball, sometimes you’ve got to go out and throw the ball, sometimes you’ve got to go out and do both. So whatever opportunity we get we want to make the most of it, and we know we’re playing good defenses week in and week out, great players and great coaching. So, it’s no surprise whenever a team goes in and tries to stop something that we do well. We just have to step up in other areas and continue to try to play complimentary football on offense to defense to special teams, run to pass, however you want to dice it up.”
Patriots right guard Shaq Mason explained it comes down to on-field execution, despite what opposing defenses may try to do.
“We know we’re going to get those type of boxes, but it’s our job to execute at the end of the day,” Mason said. “No matter what’s thrown at us, it’s our job to execute.”
The 5-6 Patriots will look too do just that Sunday when they travel to the 3-8 Los Angeles Chargers.