By Brendan Coughlin
Comment Staff Writer
The New England Patriots have set themselves up for another late season run in 2014. The Patriots currently sit at 9-3 and on top of the AFC East.
If they are able to finish the season out, New England will be the AFC East Champions for the sixth consecutive year. The Patriots have won their division all but one year since 2002.
Last week, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers matched up in a potential Super Bowl XLIX. The two elite quarterbacks are both top contenders for MVP this season. New England dropped the game in Green Bay 26-21.
Before last week, the Patriots had been streaking. After starting the season 2-2, the Patriots had won seven straight games. The loss on this past Sunday finally dropped the Patriots from the number one spot in NFL.com’s power rankings. The Packers claimed the number one spot as New England fell to number two.
To end the season, New England first will travel to San Diego to take on the Chargers. The final three games of the season will be against all division opponents ( vs. Miami, @ NYJ, vs. Buff.).
38-year old Tom Brady is fine-tuned and has thrown consecutive touchdown passes in eight straight games. Almost everything is clicking in the Patriots offense.
Brandon LaFell (2 touchdowns last week) has become the big receiver Brady needs. Julian Edelman leads the team with 77 receptions through 12 games.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski has nine touchdowns on 910 yards. The 910 receiving yards are good to lead the league for all tight ends. Gronk has become more comfortable each week and seems to be locked in for the playoffs.
The Patriots running game has shocked everyone again. Practice squad call-up Jonas Gray ran for 201 yards and a whopping four touchdowns in week 11 against the Indianapolis Colts. One would assume, after a performance like that, Gray would be the starting running back going forward. That would not be the case.
Two days following Gray’s breakout performance the Patriots signed LaGarrette Blount, who played on the team last year, to a 2-year deal after being dropped by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
That week, Gray would show up late to practice on Friday. His excuse of his cell phone alarm clock not sounding was not good enough for Coach Bill Belichick. He benched Gray and he was not handed the ball a single time. Meanwhile, Blount ran for 78 yards and two touchdowns in his Patriots return.
Going forward, the team will use the talents of Shane Vereen as a pass catching running back, along with Blount and Gray to pace opposing defenses.
New England will fight for the bye week to begin the playoffs. As of now, they are the top team in the AFC and projected to get the week of rest while the rest of the teams battle it out in the Divisional round of the playoffs.
Brendan Coughlin is a Comment staff writer.