We saw the biggest comeback in NFL history just under two months ago when the New England Patriots rallied from 25 points down in the fourth quarter and defeated the Atlanta Falcons in overtime, 34-28. It was the second title for Bill Belichick’s team in the last three years. It capped off a 14-2 season in which the perennial AFC East champions entered the postseason with seven consecutive victories and then rolled the Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers on their way to Houston. The Pats featured a multi-faceted attack led by quarterback Tom Brady and a running game that bounced back from a very rough year.

Much-improved ground attack

Flash back to 2015 when only two teams in the NFL gained fewer yards on the ground than the New England Patriots. That lack of balance eventually proved to be costly to Belichick’s team as a one-dimensional offense failed miserably against the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game. That changed this past season thanks to improved offensive line play (orchestrated by returning coach Dante Scarnecchia) and a big year from running back LeGarrette Blount. Only six teams in the league gained more yards per game on the ground. Hence the New England passing attack and overall offense finished fourth in the NFL. Blount ran for 1,161 yards and 18 scores as Belichick’s club managed to run for 117.0 yards per contest.

Who’s back in the backfield?

As usual, there are changes when it comes to these defending NFL champions. Super Bowl LI hero James White and explosive Dion Lewis remain. And the New England Patriots signed Rex Burkhead away from the Cincinnati Bengals. On the other hand, Blount and Brandon Bolden remain unsigned free agents and Tyler Gaffney was recently released.

Little-used D.J. Foster is on the depth chart as well, as are fullbacks James Develin and Glenn Gronkowski. It remains to be seen if Blount does return. He offers a different dimension than does White and Lewis. But Burkhead, who finished second on the Bengals with 344 yards rushing and two touchdowns this past season, may fill that role.

As usual, you can expect the unexpected when it comes to Belichick and company. You can also expect it to work out just fine as usual.

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