logoby Britt Schramm

Friends, Patriots, lend me your ears, I’ve come to bury Lawrence Maroney, not to praise him.  The games lost to injury that LMo has will live after him.  The few 100-yd rushing games will be interred in his bones.  So let it be with Maroney.

Okay, so maybe (mis)appropriating Shakespeare’s Marc Anthony speech about the death of Julius Caesar is probably not the best way to start off a column that is supposed to uplift the spirits after a maddening Sunday Night loss but I’ve had it with the former U of Minnesota starter.

I realize that #39 was a scratch due to injuries but at this point in his non-career, I can’t imagine that a healthy LMo would be able to take the heat off of the beleaguered and befuddled Cassel.  Let’s consider the stats behind my rant (all stats courtesy of NFL.com).

Out of a total of 30 games, #39 has registered a total of 4 games of 100 yards or more.  However, he has rushed for 50 yards or less 16 times or 53.3% of his games played.  The LMo apologists will say these numbers are eschewed due to the passing juggernaut of ’07 and that may be true for part of these disappointing numbers.  But maybe a reason why the Pats turned into a carbon copy of the ‘01 Rams was because Belichick never thought that Maroney was the man to carry the rock on first down and second down after only one year of regular and post-season play.To further hit home the fact that Maroney may be more of a Trojan horse than a workhorse, and to help everyone gain an even better perspective of what kind of back LMo could possibly be after this season, here’s a comparable third-year back:

RB#1 – 470 Attempts, 1,682 yds, 13 TDs, 16 rec, 120 yds, 1 TD

RB#2 – 388 Attempts, 1,673 yds, 12 TDs, 26 rec, 310 yds, 1 TD

RB#2 is Maroney, averaging 55.8 yards per game.  The first back?  His name is Rashaan Salaam, another former first rounder drafted eleven years prior to LMo.  Salaam ran (or lack there of) himself out of Chi-town in three years, took a year off and was out of the league for good one year later.  The same might happen to Maroney if his numbers and injuries remain the same because right now, there’s no feast or famine with LMo; just blight and starvation if you’re a fan of a RB who can consistently chew up yards.

Okay, enough with the gloom and doom, let’s embrace the glow of the Sox pulling out a big old W at the Fens and get to this week’s opponent:

This Week – Denver Broncos (4-2; Against AFC East 0-0)

The Show-Me State of Patriots Nation

As Scott pointed out in Tuesday’s Just Slingin’ It, the Broncos are awful on the defensive side of the ball; even worse than the Pats in almost all recorded categories.  But will that translate into a much-needed victory for the Patriots?  Let’s look specifically at one game that should be a nice “blueprint for beating” the Broncos (ironical use of the phrase noted).

One of the teams who have beaten the Broncos does bear a slight resemblance to the Pats; at least in their current configuration.  The offense was averaging 16 points a game while the defense was giving up ten points more a game.  They had a backup QB in a starting role. The running game was woeful, to say the least.  The defense was averaging less than 2 turnovers a game and only had two sacks total.  But this team hosted the Denver Broncos and beat them to the tune of 33-19.  That team is Kansas City.

So, how did they do it?  They didn’t win by being a pass-happy, pitch-and-catch offense with a passive, tentative defense.  The Chiefs forced turnovers.  They controlled the ball by running it 33 times for 213 net rushing yards.  And they held on to the ball for over 33 minutes.  Lastly, they only turned over the ball once.  Sounds like a box score from the 01 Pats schedule.

Okay, where did they attack the Broncos?  They ran over 51% of their rushing plays up the middle and another third of them to the left side of the line.  This ability to move the ball against the Broncos bodes well for the Patriots since LT Matt Light is coming back after suffering a knee injury on Wednesday.  Light and Mankins need to re-establish their 2007 regular season form so they can gain make running lanes for Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk against a nicked up Elvis Dumervil and Marcus Thomas.

What about the pass?  Huard only took two passes downfield while racking up the short, precise passes by going 21 of 28 pass attempts while benefiting from the YAC that WR Dwayne Bowe and TE Tony Gonzalez were generating.  Huard ended up with 160 yards and 1 TD but most importantly, zero interceptions.

The KC defense did play some inspired ball.  They got two turnovers in the first four series of the game.  They also got a missed field goal by Nick Novak.  Unfortunately, the defensive groupings for the Chiefs are not available but they run a 4-3 base D, which may allow the Pats group to get back some of their switch mojo that they left (like our hearts) in San Diego.

By the number, this is a winnable game for the Patriots but it all comes down, like every week, to execution.  The “blueprint” is there.  The numbers say that the Broncos defense is vulnerable.  But what will this game be like in this roller coaster of a season?  Will it be a peak like beating the Brett and the Jets?  Or another valley like losing to Miami and to the Bolts?

Next week is another Sunday home game against the now one-win St. Louis Rams.  Hopefully, next week will be better than this past one.  Until then, remember keep it between the lines.