SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Sports

October 9, 2012

Pats offense on pace for record-setting year

FOXBOROUGH — The New England Patriots set team records last season for first downs and yards gained.

Those marks may not last long.

After five games, the Tom Brady-led offense is on pace to break both of them and he’s getting plenty of help from a revived running game with a deep group of backs who combine power, speed and elusiveness.

That’s been evident in the past two games. The Patriots rushed for 251 yards in Sunday’s 31-21 win over the Denver Broncos one week after gaining 247 in a 52-28 victory over the Buffalo Bills.

“All our backs ran hard and were productive,” against the Broncos, coach Bill Belichick said. “We’re confident in all of them.”

The challenge figures to be tougher next Sunday when the Patriots visit the Seattle Seahawks, who have given up the fewest yards in the NFL, 258.6 per game. But the Patriots have gained the most, an average of 439.4, an increase of 11 yards over last year’s club record.

On Sunday, they set a team record with 35 first downs against the Broncos after picking up 33 in each of their previous two games. If they maintain their pace of 30.2 first downs a game, they’ll finish with 483, shattering the NFL record of 416 set last year by the New Orleans Saints and the club mark of 399.

The Patriots used a no-huddle attack for most of the first three quarters, making it tough for the Broncos to make substitutions and get in the proper positions.

“It takes a lot of concentration,” tight end Rob Gronkowski said. “You’ve got to have all 11 guys working at the same pace and you’ve got to make sure you’re doing your own job out there.”

They did on Sunday when running backs Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden, Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen followed outstanding blocking. They accomplished a rare feat — gaining more yards on the ground than Brady, with 223, did through the air.

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