the Patriots’ running game this year really wasn’t much better than it was last year. There was just more of it, in large part because their hurry-up offense meant there was more of everything. One reason the Patriots run so effectively, of course, is that defenses are often planning against the pass, even when the Patriots are in non-shotgun sets with just two wide receivers on the field. One of the neat new statistics we have this year thanks to teaming up with ESPN Stats & Information for game charting is a record of how many defenders lined up in the box on each play. From that, we know that the Patriots faced a depleted box with just six or fewer defenders on 54 percent of all runs (not counting scrambles).* This ranked fifth in the NFL; the league average was 33 percent. The Patriots averaged 4.8 yards per carry on these plays with only six in the box, which was no better than average. The NFL average with six or fewer in the box was 4.8 yards per carry, compared to 4.3 yards per carry with seven and 3.4 yards per carry with eight.

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