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Patriots coach Bill Belichick made the point this week that the Broncos are especially disruptive when getting teams into third-and-long situations. Top pass rusher Elvis Dumervil, for example, has five of his NFL-leading eight sacks on third down.
So staying on schedule and gaining positive yards on early downs will be something to closely monitor from a Patriots perspective, specifically in the running game. Negative runs could be a major factor in the game.
The Patriots have had too many runs result in negative yardage this season, as 12 of their 112 attempts have been stopped behind the line of scrimmage.
The breakdown of negative runs:
Laurence Maroney -- 7 in 27 attempts
Fred Taylor -- 2 in 45 attempts
Sammy Morris -- 2 in 13 attempts
Kevin Faulk -- 1 in 16 attempts
This is one area where the Patriots figure to miss Taylor. Even when there wasn't much yardage to be gained, Taylor managed to avoid negative runs and keep the offense on schedule.