A couple of days ago, I wrote about the Patriots hunger to win and belief in their new and improved team (check it out here). Arguably the most important improvement to this year's New England Patriots team as opposed to last year's Super Bowl Runner-Up team is the presence of a rush offense.
At the end of the regular season, the New England Patriots ranked #7 in rushing offense behind the work of Stevan Ridley who ran for 1,263 yards on the ground this year. Their rank at #7 beats their rushing offenses in 2011 and 2007 (the years they lost in the Super Bowl) where the Patriots were ranked #20 and #13 respectively. As a matter of fact, the last time the Patriots ranked #7 in rushing offense since Tom Brady was the starter (meaning we discount 2008 when Brady tore his ACL in Week 1 against the Chiefs) was in their Super Bowl winning 2004 season!
Nate Solder and the offensive line like the growth in this year's ground game because it provides balance to the offense.
"I like keeping things balanced," commented the massive left tackle, Solder, to SI's Ben Reiter.
When you keep the offense balanced, the defense is more likely to bite on the play action, thus opening up the passing game for Tom Brady and his receivers.
This offensive balance was a key to victory in the Week 14 match-up against the Houston Texans. According to PatsPulpit, the Patriots ran the ball 33 times and passed the ball 36 times, and the score showed the immense success they were able to achieve. So lets hope history repeats itself, which is so often does, and the Patriots fare as well this year as they did in 2004.