Patriots Talk Podcast

Can Patriots' run game take advantage of Dolphins' struggling defense?

The Patriots' rushing attack hasn't dominated a game yet. Could this be the week?

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The story of the New England Patriots offense in last week's upset win over the Buffalo Bills was the resurgence of quarterback Mac Jones.

He completed 25 of 30 pass attempts for 272 yards and two touchdowns with zero turnovers. He engineered a fantastic game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter that culminated in a touchdown pass to tight end Mike Gesicki. It was an encouraging performance from Jones, who had struggled mightily in the three previous games with seven turnovers combined during that span.

One aspect of the Patriots offense that still hasn't kicked into high gear or enjoyed a breakout performance is the rushing attack. New England ranks 26th in yards per carry (3.5) and 27th in rushing yards per game (85.4). Rhamondre Stevenson is averaging 3.1 yards per carry, down from 5.0 yards per carry last season. Ezekiel Elliott is at 3.7 yards per carry. They've each had their moments, but the unit as a whole has failed to dominate an opponent yet.

On the latest episode of NBC Sports Boston's Patriots Talk Podcast, our insiders Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry were joined by WEEI's Mike Kadlick to discuss the win over the Bills and Sunday's Week 8 matchup against the Miami Dolphins.

The run game was a topic of focus.

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"I'm still waiting for a game where Stevenson and Elliott just take the load and they run for 210 yards combined, and they have 35 minutes of possession and that's how they win a game," Perry said. "They've had important plays here and there. Zeke's short touchdown, Stevenson's screen catch and run to set them up for the game winner (last week). But they haven't really dominated a game yet. I wonder if they can do that, and I wonder if it's this week."

The Dolphins defense is giving up 112.3 rushing yards per game. This unit also has allowed the third-most rushing touchdowns at nine. The Eagles ran for 99 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-17 win over the Dolphins last week.

Is this the kind of matchup the Patriots' ground game can exploit?

"This could be it. This Miami run defense hasn't been great," Kadlick said. "They started off terribly against the Chargers in Week 1, and they've bounced back a little bit, but this is the game I think to do it, with Demario Douglas being involved, too.

"I sort of look at the RPO game as an extension of the run game, even if you can get a quick screen out there. It can be a de facto run. The chunk plays we've seen from Zeke and Rhamondre have been great, but to do it consistently can be huge. On the road, getting this offensive line in a rhythm for a second straight week can be huge, too. It's one thing to sit back there and pass block, but to run the ball consistently and get 200 yards could be a huge factor in this game."

Establishing the rushing attack is even more important on the road, especially against a high-powered offense like the Dolphins that ranks No. 1 in points scored at 34.3 per game. Running the ball effectively would keep the Dolphins offense off the field and limit their possessions.

But in order to do that, the Patriots can't fall behind early, and that's been a problem for them this season. They have trailed by double digits in the first half in five of their first seven games.

Kickoff for Patriots vs. Dolphins is set for 1 p.m. Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium.

Also in the episode:

  • Can Mac Jones repeat last week’s performance?  
  • Concern with who gets reps at WR? 
  • How long does the momentum from last week last? 
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