When the New England Patriots drafted Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft, one fact rang out.
Since Tom Brady led the Pats to their first Super Bowl title in 2001, they have used more draft picks on quarterbacks (5) than running backs (4).
That's not to say the Patriots haven't had the need to invest in a backup for Brady -- in fact, one of those QBs drafted was Matt Cassel. All he did was lead the Patriots to an 11-5 record when Brady was injured in the first game of the 2008 season.
The point is this: New England has not had someone who has been able to run the ball, at least with any sort of consistency, since Corey Dillon.
The Patriots are on the road against the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football (8:30 ET, ESPN). Given the way they have played outside the state of Massachusetts lately, there is no reason to think the Patriots will win.
Minus a "road game" against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that was played on the other side of the Atlantic, the Patriots are 1-7 on the road since the start of 2009. These are just a few of the teams that have more road wins than the Patriots since last season: Kansas City Chiefs (4), Oakland Raiders (3), Buccaneers (3) and Cleveland Browns (2).
The Patriots' last two road wins have come against the Buffalo Bills (Week 17 of 2008; Week 15 of 2009). In those two wins, one statistic jumps off the page: running backs who carried the ball at least 20 times. Last year it was Laurence Maroney (23 rushes, 81 yards). In 2008, they had LaMont Jordan (20 rushes, 64 yards) and Sammy Morris (24-85). Now, I know what you are going to say: The Patriots and Bills had to run the ball in that 2008 game because it was so windy. That's correct. Cassel threw the ball just eight times and the Patriots had 47 rushes in their 13-0 win.
It's no coincidence that the last two times the Patriots have had a running back carry the ball 20 times in a road game that they won each time.
Still not buying the argument?
Then how about 42-1?
That's the Patriots' record in games since 2001 when they have a running back carry the ball at least 20 times. Not only is that the best win percentage (.977) in the NFL over that span, but they're the only team over .900. (Tampa Bay is next at .857, 36-6). The Patriots are 22-0 at home and 20-1 on the road in such games. (The one loss was, oddly enough, in 2004 at Miami on Monday Night Football.)
Best Win Pct Since 2001
RB With 20 Rushes In Game
The Patriots aren't a running team, and they aren’t going to change their stripes overnight. But these are the facts: Bill Belichick and company have lost seven of their last eight true road games and have been outscored in the second half in each contest. Of the seven losses, five were by seven points or fewer, so it wasn't as if there was a need to abandon the run because of the score. Tom Brady has thrown seven second-half interceptions while the New England defense has picked off just three. The defense has been on the field almost 26 minutes more than their opponents after halftime in those games (132:58 to 107:02).
This isn't to say that the Patriots are going to win on Monday if BenJarvus Green-Ellis carries the ball 20 times.
Although the one game in Green-Ellis’ career in which he had at least 20 carries, the Patriots won.