The Patriots’ offense is built around Tom Brady and the passing attack. New England leads the NFL with an average of 331.2 passing yards per game, and Brady is on pace for the first 5,500-yard season in NFL history. The Patriots have almost exactly a 2:1 pass-run ratio (they’ve called 171 passing plays and 86 running plays this year), even though they’re undefeated and have had late fourth-quarter leads in every game. The Patriots are fifth in the NFL in pass attempts per game and 27th in the NFL in rush attempts per game. New England is a pass-first offense.
And yet when the Patriots decide to run the ball, they’re as good at it as any team in the NFL.
The Patriots’ running offense is so good that they’ve picked up first downs on 27.7 percent of their running plays, the best percentage in the NFL. The Patriots are tied for fifth in the NFL in rushing touchdowns, with six, even though they rank 30th in the NFL in total rushing attempts. The Patriots are one of only five teams in the league that hasn’t fumbled on a running play this year. According to the advanced stats at FootballOutsiders.com, the Patriots are the most efficient team in the NFL at running the ball.
Although the Patriots’ average of 3.9 yards a carry doesn’t look great, the Patriots’ stats are skewed a bit because they’ve had eight quarterback kneeldowns for negative-10 yards. Remove the quarterback kneeldowns, and the Patriots are averaging 4.4 yards a carry — a very healthy average for a team that usually runs in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
Expect the Patriots’ solid running game to continue on Sunday night against the Colts. Last year, the Patriots’ best rushing game in the regular season came when they ran for 246 yards in Week 11 against the Colts, and their best rushing game in the playoffs came when they ran for 177 yards in the AFC Championship Game against the Colts. Indianapolis knows all too well that while the Patriots’ offense is built primarily through Brady’s arm, they can beat you on the ground as well.