FOXBOROUGH — When you look back at last season's stats, it stands out like a sore thumb.
Rushing yards: 273 vs. Buffalo, Week 16.
It was the biggest rushing day for the Patriots since they racked up 277 yards at Oakland in 2008, and it still stands as the second-largest rushing performance for the Patriots under Bill Belichick.
New England needed all those rushing yards in the eventual 24-12 victory: Tom Brady completed just 13 of 24 passes for 126 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions for a passer rating of 48.3, and the passing offense had a tough time being consistently productive against a good Bills secondary.
It was so impressive that eight of the team's 10 most explosive plays that Sunday at Gillette were via the run. That's virtually unheard of for this team.
Everyone contributed, from Sony Michel pounding the ball inside, to Cordarrelle Patterson using his speed to get to the edge on the jet sweep.
The Bills were left, understandably, frustrated.
"I will start with giving them credit," said coach Sean McDermott. "Good scheme early, we made the adjustments, it quieted down at some points, but to be able to run the football like they did is not good enough on our part. And fundamentals are certainly in that when you talk about run defense. And then shedding blocks, getting off blockers and tackling. And so, there were times in there, I didn’t think we tackled well enough. We had them behind the line of scrimmage and we were throwing shoulders instead of wrapping up. So, we got to go back and look at that, as we look at our defense."
There were a few factors that stuck out in the game last year that keyed the Patriots' ground attack, and they might not be readily available this time around. Let's discuss what worked, and how that matches up with this year's squad.
1. Lead the way.