Has the Patriots run defense been fixed?

Ever since the loss of big baby Vince and linebacker Jerod Mayo, the Patriots run defense has struggled.

Big time.

 What is normally the bright spot of the Pats' defense has been their major flaw this year. With rookie defensive linemen trying to fill the large void left by Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, they have been pushed around by opposing O-lines and the Patriots ended the regular season ranked 30th against the run. That's not encouraging going further into a post-season where it seems the team that runs the ball the best wins.

Photo via Musketfire.com

But on Saturday against the Colts, the Patriots had a run defense. In fact, the Pats held Donald Brown and the Colts rushing attack to a mere 69 yards total on the day. Not bad for a defense that had been giving up chunks of yards all season long. But was that recent success because the Patriots' run defense has fixed itself, or because the Colts just suck at running the ball?

Sadly Pats fans, it's because the Colts suck at running the football. Don't get me wrong, the defensive line did a great job controlling the line of scrimmage and containing Brown, but it wasn't like they were going up against a top flight running attack. The Colts averaged 106 yards per game during the regular season and in the post season they averaged 84 yards. The Colts don't have a reliable every down back and so they tend to rely on Luck and his arm more than the ground attack. They thought in getting Trent Richardson they would have a strong running back, but that was an epic failure.

So what can we take from this past performance heading forward into Denver. The big thing I liked seeing was point of attack on Saturday. On almost every run play, the Patriots' D line got a great push and was able to clog lanes up before they opened, holding the Colts' backs to minimal yards per carry. This has been a problem with the D, with young rookies getting pushed around by experienced linemen, so I'm glad it took a step in the right direction.

Denver against the Chargers rushed for 130 yards with our friend Knowshon Moreno getting the bulk of the carries. While I'm sure the Patriots will want to stop the run, I get the feeling they will go into the AFC Championship game with a similar game plan to the last time they played the Broncos: let the Broncos run, keep the ball out of Peyton's hands.

While the Broncos did run the ball well against the Chargers, they had trouble running the ball into the end zone once they got into the red zone. The Patriots have no problem letting the Broncos run down the field, but you can believe that once they get in that 20 yard range, the clamps will be on and the D will force Peyton to make the play. Which may sound silly to people since Peyton is their best player, but Manning also loves to make mistakes, and in the game next week, the QB that makes the least mistakes is going to win.

The Patriots run D will be better against the Broncos next week, but on their list of priorities, its below Manning, Thomas, Decker, and Welker.

- Pete Rogers