Patriots: Concerns About Ground Game

The Patriots rushing attack isn't what it is supposed to be and that has a everyone concerned. From the linemen to the running backs all the way to the head coach, New England understands if they don't get the ground game going it's bound to be a long frustrating season. With only minimal changes to a supposedly improved line, the Patriots understand they have to make the adjustments necessary if they want to avoid falling to their worst start since 2001.

PHOTO: New England Patriots' Corey Dillon (28) is upended by Carolina Panthers players Ken Lucas (23) and Brandon Short (53) Sept 18, 2005 (AP Photo)

Concerns About Ground Game
By Staff

Bill Belichick won't be calling out any individual players anytime soon. That's not his M.O. But if his weapon-filled offense is to show its explosive nature any time soon, it better get its running game in gear, or throwing the football will become increasingly difficult.

New England struggled to run the football for the second straight game with Corey Dillon, who rushed for a franchise record 1,635 yards last season, unable to generate anything. He carried 14 times for a dismal 36 yards. Of his 14 runs, only three were for more than 3 yards (4, 14 and 5) while two went for losses and another for no gain.

Dillon predictably refused comment after a second straight frustrating performance, but his linemen stood up and took accountability. "It's just poor execution on our part," a clearly distraught center Dan Koppen said. "They out-toughed us and outplayed us. There's not much more I can say."

"I don't think anyone is happy about where we are in the running game yet," quarterback Tom Brady said. "We haven't had production. We haven't executed like I think we're capable and not up the expectations of our coaches."

One poor performance is excusable, but two might be a trend, especially when one figures that yards will be even more difficult to come by next week in Pittsburgh. Dillon had just 63 yards against the Raiders last week.

"All aspects of (the running game) need to improve," Belichick said Monday afternoon. "We need to coach it better, block it better, run it better and complement it better with the rest of our plays."


-- Troy Brown's 71-yard completion was the longest non-scoring catch of his career, but he wasn't smiling about it. He assessed the Patriots losing performance this way: "I thought everything was out of whack. A lot of it was caused by them and a lot was caused by us, especially the (six) false start penalties. But they forced three turnovers and pounded us all around. They had the edge in every category you can think of."

-- The Patriots' special teams are a major problem. After having a punt and an extra point blocked in the opener, the Patriots allowed a 76-yard punt return and were fortunate when a 77-yarder for a score was overturned by a penalty. They also struggled covering kicks. "We have to play better in that phase of the game. We didn't cover it well or return it well. There is not one magic thing that can take care of it. We have to play better," head coach Bill Belichick said.


-- CB Randall Gay was carted off the filed Sunday with a lower left leg injury. Belichick, who refuses to divulge the nature of injuries, placed it in the "normal bumps and bruises" category, although it appeared to be serious enough to keep Gay out for a while.

-- RG Stephen Neal left Sunday's game with a back injury, the nature of which was not revealed. His return was announced as probable, but he didn't return.

-- G Russ Hochstein, who started two playoff games in 2003, including Super Bowl XXXVIII against the Panthers, replaced Neal and picked up a pair of false start penalties.

-- Rookie CB Ellis Hobbs will be thrown at early and often until he proves he can cover. He struggled in coverage during the preseason and was spun around by Ricky Proehl on a third-down conversion Sunday in Carolina. He and second-year man Guss Scott will fill the dime back roles until either Gay, Chad Scott or Tyrone Poole return.

-- WRs Deion Branch and David Givens combined to drop one pass all of last year and the duo dropped three on Sunday against the Panthers. "That performance was definitely out of character," Givens said.

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