Patriots at Miami: New England needs to get run game going

AP PhotoAfter an underwhelming season opener, Sony Michel will be looking to get going in the run game against Miami.

FOXBOROUGH — The Baltimore Ravens laid a beatdown on Miami in last Sunday’s opener.

The Ravens won 59-10, running up 643 yards of total offense while quarterback Lamar Jackson picked the Dolphins defense apart for a career-high five touchdown passes. He and back-up Robert Griffin III combined to go 23 for 26 passing, and by the end of the day Miami’s fans were lustily booing their overmatched hometown team.

But while Jackson’s highlight reel touchdown passes to rookie Hollywood Brown dominated the airwaves after the game, the Ravens actually set the tone quite differently in their first drive.

They ran the ball.

Baltimore’s first play from scrimmage was a straightforward handoff to Mark Ingram, who blasted untouched through a hole on the right side to take it 40 yards. Baltimore’s next two rushing attempts went for 11 yards and 13 yards, respectively, before Ingram eventually scored from 1-yard out on the eighth play of the drive.

The Ravens never stopped pounding it either, eventually totaling 265 yards rushing on 5.8 yards per attempt. That’s a blueprint the Patriots will hopefully emulate when they head down to Miami Sunday.

While the Patriots were utterly dominant in their opening night romp over the Steelers, the one area New England struggled was in the run game.

The Patriots averaged just 3.4 yards per carry. The Steelers’ front seven shined, holding lead back Sony Michel to 14 yards on 15 carries.

With one of the league’s top offensive lines and a deep and talented stable of running backs, the run game was supposed to be one of New England’s strengths. So what happened? 

Well, a little bit of everything.

Michel wasn’t good, but he was also hampered by uncharacteristically sloppy games from Marcus Cannon and Shaq Mason.

Cannon left the game early after suffering a shoulder injury following a blown up run play in the third quarter.

Pittsburgh deserves a lot of credit, too. The Steelers were ranked sixth in the NFL in rushing defense last fall and consistently won battles at the line of scrimmage on Sunday.

That being said, Rex Burkhead (8 carries, 44 yards, 5.5 avg.) and James White (4 carries, 26 yards, 6.5 avg.) both made the most of their chances, and if the Patriots just need a week to feast on an overmatched rushing defense to get going, this is as good an opportunity as any. 

Do the Patriots need to run it right down the Dolphins’ throats?

No. New England is an 18.5-point road favorite over the tanking Dolphins for a reason. But even if New England blows Miami out of the water, another poor showing in the run game wouldn’t exactly inspire confidence going forward.

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E-MAIL: mcerullo@newburyportnews.com

Patriots Game

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

Where: at Dolphins

TV: CBSOdds: Pats by 18.5

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