In a thrilling comeback victory against the Jaguars, the Patriots advanced to their eight Super Bowl in the Brady-Belichick era, and are one win away from winning three out of four Super Bowls for a second time in this century alone. The Patriots were forced to rely on Brady’s fourth quarter heroics in a matchup that featured the Jaguars ferocious front seven completely shut down the Patriots run game. Dion Lewis, after averaging 142.3 yards from scrimmage in his past three games, was held to just 34 yards on the ground and 32 through the air. If you take away his 18 yard first down run that sealed the win, Lewis ran for just 16 yards on eight carries (2.0 YPC), a far cry from his season average of 5.0 YPC, which was second in the NFL among running backs.
Almost all of the offense had to come through Brady and the passing game, and while they delivered, the Patriots will need a better effort on the ground 11 days from now against Philadelphia. An interesting pattern that I discovered is that, when the Patriots (not including “runs” by Brady and Hoyer) rushed for 4.4 or more yards per carry in a game, the Patriots were 9-0 this season (including playoffs), and had an average point differential of +15.1 in those games. However, in the nine games when they rushed for less than 4.4 yards per carry, the Patriots were 6-3, and had an average point differential of +5.7. Of course, if there is one quarterback that can overcome a lack of success on the ground, it’s Tom Brady, as he is the only quarterback in NFL history to have a winning record in games in which he is forced to throw 50+ times (19-9, a .667 winning percentage).