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Sports

October 5, 2006

The Maroney Movement:Pats offense quietly transitions around rookie

FOXBORO - Egg shells are left all over the locker room. Everyone, from Bill Belichick down to the locker attendants, tread as lightly as possible.

Rookie running back Laurence Maroney's takeover of the Patriots offense is well under way.

The former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher stole the show, even in Corey Dillon's old stomping grounds, last week, carrying the Patriots offense with a combination of speed and power that hasn't been seen here since Dillon rolled up nearly 2,000 yards (regular season and playoffs) in 2003.

Nobody wants to talk about Maroney, without mentioning Dillon and fellow respected veteran Kevin Faulk, that is.

But by now, with Maroney chewing up 4.9 yards a carry compared to Dillon's 4.1, it's getting tougher and tougher to share the accolades. Even for a seasoned veteran.

"That's a great luxury. He and Corey and Kevin ... the running back position is extremely strong. They play hard, they run hard and they read things well," said quarterback Tom Brady. "Whether it's Laurence getting the ball or Corey getting the ball, each of those guys bring different strengths."

Brady would have been OK to stop there. It's been the party line.

But Maroney's 125-yard, 2-touchdown effort in Cincinnati - "a statement game," according to Brady - truly impacted this group, instilling the entire team with a newfound confidence in its offense.

"Laurence is a very explosive back," Brady continued. "You see him. Not only can he run with speed, but he runs with power. He stiff arms guys, he makes good cuts and he can finish runs off.

"Laurence has worked extremely hard, and everyone is glad to have Laurence on our team. He's certainly a dynamic playmaker for us. And he has to continue to be that."

Not that the Patriots don't still need Dillon. He brings plenty of pop and even more cache, what with his 10,665 career rushing yards.

And, as the Bengals felt late Sunday, Dillon, coming up on his 32nd birthday, still has a nose for the end zone. Not only that, he has always run with a chip on his shoulder.

Belichick himself likened it to Pittsburgh's 2005 transition from Jerome Bettis to Willie Parker.

Hurt Hobbs talking

Unlike most injured New England players, cornerback Ellis Hobbs was available to any and all media members willing to listen.

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