Here's a quickie quiz: When did quarterback John Elway finally win a Super Bowl?
If you said 1998 — Jan. 25 to be exact — you are only half correct.
Elway won the Super Bowl when he had a very good, maybe even great, running attack by his side. After a long career of success, including three Super Bowl losses, Elway went from big-game choker to Hall of Fame legend when they added Terrell Davis to the roster. In the two seasons the Broncos won back-to-back titles ('97 and '98), Davis rushed for a combined 3,758 yards and 36 touchdowns.
Well, guess what? We could say the same thing about Tom Brady.
Two of Brady's three Super Bowl championship seasons — 2001 and 2004 — were the same years the Patriots had a legitimate, balanced offensive attack with running backs Antoine Smith (1,157 yards, 12 TDs in '01) and Corey Dillon (1,635 yards and 12 TDs in '04) were Pro Bowl players.
Why do I bring up this subject so soon after such a debilitating loss?
Because coaching blunders aside, the Patriots are susceptible to comebacks like the one we saw just before midnight late Sunday night.
Wouldn't it be nice to see the Patriots comfortably control a 17-point lead, a 13-point lead or even a 6-point lead in the fourth quarter, like they used to?
You know how you do that? You run the football.
By that I don't mean the Kevin Faulk trap plays, which I adore. I mean first-and-10, I-formation, and the other team knows you're running the ball. And they can't stop you.
The four-yard run, while not as pretty as the six-yard "bubble screen" to Wes Welker or the seven-yard slant to Randy Moss, is a lost art around Foxboro these days.
But the four-yard run on first down is more effective. Not only does it set up play-action — freezing linebackers who are respecting a potential running play — but it creates a mentality ... We are tougher than you.