As the Patriots tried and failed miserably to establish some sort of a run game in the 2016 AFC Championship Game, it became clear as day that there was zero hope of doing so as the game progressed.
The optics were bad, and the final statistics were even worse. New England's leading rusher on the day was quarterback Tom Brady (13 yards). As a team, they rushed for 44 yards on 17 carries, a 2.6 average. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and his unit didn't give a rat's ass about New England's futile attempts to run the ball, giving them the luxury of dropping seven and eight players into coverage to constantly flood Brady's passing lanes.
There's being a one-dimensional football team, and then there's what the Patriots suffered through two Sunday's ago.
We saw Brady and the offense piece together wins after abandoning the run earlier in the season, but in the biggest game of the year in the most hostile of environments, the team wasn't able to play with one hand tied behind their back. As it ultimately played out, the season-ending injuries to Dion Lewis and LeGarrette Blount (with the heavy emphasis on Lewis) proved to be losses the offense couldn't overcome.
The lack of a running game that simply possess a heartbeat has many believing that head coach Bill Belichick will put some decent resources into reinforcing the position, and ESPN's Mike Reiss surmises that we could be in for a repeat of 2011 when Belichick drafted the duo of Shane Vereen (second round, No. 52 overall) and Steven Ridley (third round, No. 73 overall) in the Draft.
It's hard to argue against the point. Solely relying on Lewis as he comes off a torn ACL would be risky. Blount's contract expires this spring, making him an unrestricted free agent (when Reiss points out that the 29-year-old back was still walking with crutches as early as last week, it's hard to believe Belichick will bring him back). James White is a good wild card, but he's unable to shoulder too much of a workload. Brandon Bolden is Brandon Bolden, a defacto special teamer that contributes every now and then, but nothing consistently. The roster needs some legitimate young talent in the backfield, there's no denying that.
The value placed on RB's isn't what it used to be, but as we saw, it's impossible for a team to reach the top of the mountain without even a halfway decent ground game. It's one of the few areas of the roster where the Pats will need to revamp, and it might just be the most important.
Photo Credit: CBS Boston