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In the battle of the Patriots offense and Denver defense Sunday, there's one key skirmish to monitor. Aside from Champ Bailey, the biggest challenge to the Patriots will be the pass rushing specialists Von Miller and Elvis Dumvervil.

Of course, it's a similar story to last week where there was a question as to whether or not the Patriots could stop the Bills' dangerous front four. Sunday came and went and Tom Brady was just fine as Mario Williams and the rest had zero effect on the game.

Now the Patriots face some more great pass rushers. Can they do it again? Combined, Dumervil and Miller have 5.5 sacks. As for the entire team, the Broncos are tied with the Bills on the year with a mediocre 10 sacks. On paper, this seems like it could be a repeat of last week.

The Patriots have faced a formidable defensive line in every single game so far this season. From the Titans led by Kamerion Wimbley to the Cardinals' Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell to the Ravens' Haloti Ngata.

In the two victories, Tom Brady was only hit seven times and sacked twice. In the losses? 12 quarterback hits and six sacks. So, with the equalizer of all these defensive lines being talented, what has been the difference maker in keeping them at bay in the wins? The answer could be as simple as Stevan Ridley and the running game.

Kudos to my friend Mitch for noticing that in every game that Stevan Ridley has gotten more than 20 carries, not only has Ridley had a big day but the Patriots have won. I pointed to this as a key to last week's game. The way that the Patriots have to slow down the pass rush is to run the ball at them.

We saw an example of this last night in the Arizona-St. Louis game. The Cardinals dropped back to pass a crazy 50 times, compared to 17 runs. This was despite trailing by only one score most of the game. While the Cardinals have maybe the worst offensive line in the league, dropping back so much only magnifies that. Kolb was sacked nine times and hit 11. When you can't run the ball, it allows a defense's pass rushers to tee off, pin their ears back and go after the passer.

It's largely been the Patriots' Achilles heel the past five years or so. They haven't been able to run the ball and teams like the Giants have been able to take advantage of that.

We've seen so far this year, running the ball has been a key to Patriots victories. Make Von Miller and Elvis Dumervill have to defend the run. Don't let them go full out after Tom Brady every play.

Feed Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden the ball and good things will happen. It's been the case so far anyway.

Michael Saver 10/05/2012 07:19:00 PM Edit
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