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Patriots Running Game is Sneaky Good

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The Patriots turned a corner in the second half of the season- but why are they so good?

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Schatz from Football Outsiders has been spitting out some good facts about the Patriots run game, on both offense and defense:

To put all of this in other words, the Patriots rushing offense was the worst in the entire league during the first half of the season, while the run defense ranked 26th. During the back half of the season, both units catapulted to 2nd overall in both rankings.

Schatz points to the return of LeGarrette Blount to the roster as a reason for the offensive success, which is likely, but not the only reason. The Patriots played terribly on the offensive line for the first four games of the season and didn't really come together until rookie Bryan Stork and veteran Ryan Wendell were placed into the starting line-up. Having Stork return for the Super Bowl (which Tom Brady said he is expecting) would be a major boon.

The defensive side of the ball is a little more interesting. Losing Sealver Siliga and not yet having Alan Branch on the roster clearly didn't help the defensive line, while Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower were both hurt early on the year, and took time to adjust after Jerod Mayo was injured for the season. Also, Brandon Browner and Pat Chung didn't really hit their strides until the back end of the season.

The back half of the season? Chandler Jones, Siliga, and Branch all returned from injuries. Collins was healthy and Hightower was mostly healthy. The secondary solidified with Browner and Chung. This team ranked second against the run down the back stretch. That awesome.

Now it's clear that the Ravens had their way with the Patriots defense in the run game, with Gary Kubiak's running schemes taking full advantage of the Patriots defensive alignments. The Colts, on the other hand, were pretty neutral on the ground when they bothered to try.

If the Patriot defense that played for the back half of the season shows up on Sunday, there'll be plenty of reason to believe that New England can stop the Seattle rushing attack. If the defense from the Ravens game shows, then it will be a long night for everyone.