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October 9, 2012

Patriots offense on pace for record-setting season

(Continued)

It marked the first time since 1978 that the Patriots had consecutive games in which they rushed for at least 200 yards.

“We’re getting a lot of nickel defense,” Brady said. “When they put little guys out there (in the secondary), we have to take advantage of it. I think we’re playing definitely a more physical style and controlling the tempo of the game by running the football. We have to keep doing it. It’s only been five games.”

Against Denver, Ridley rushed for a career-high 151 yards, Bolden had 54 and Woodhead gained 47. The previous Sunday, Bolden led the team with 137 and one touchdown and Ridley added 106 yards and two touchdowns.

“A lot of people key on (Brady) and our running back group has to get some pressure off him so he can be the quarterback he can be,” Ridley said. “If they’re sitting back there staring Brady in the face every play, we can’t be a one-dimensional offense.”

The Patriots are averaging 165.4 yards rushing this season after picking up 110.3 per game last year when BenJarvus Green-Ellis, now with the Cincinnati Bengals, led them with 667 yards and Ridley was second with 441. Ridley already has 490 this year.

They’ve also improved in the red zone. In the first three games, they scored on 11 of 12 trips inside the 20-yard line with six touchdowns and five field goals. In the last two games, they’re 11 for 11 with nine touchdowns and two field goals.

And they’re getting better in third-down situations with more than 5 yards to go for a first down.

Brady hit Woodhead for a 25-yard gain on a third-and-14 that kept alive a drive that ended with a field goal that gave New England a 17-7 lead with two seconds left in the first half. Then Woodhead ran 19 yards on third-and-17 in the third quarter to help set up Brady’s 1-yard touchdown run that made the score 24-7.

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