All the hype between the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots matchup is around the quarterbacks. Obviously, when you have Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady facing off for the first time with the two hottest teams in the NFL that’s the main story. However, you know Brady will make his fair share of plays in the passing game no matter what, so shutting down New England’s running attack is just as important as slowing down Brady.

New England is 15th in the NFL in rushing averaging 113.4 yards per game, so they are just not about Brady and his aerial attack. If Bill Belichick knows he has a matchup advantage running the ball he is not afraid to pound it down the defense’s throat.

For example, two weeks ago at Indianapolis Belichick knew he could run it on Indianapolis just like he had in the playoffs last year. The Patriots ran the ball 44 times and passed it 30 times. Jonas Gray ran for 201 yards and four touchdowns.

Belichick may see that kind of matchup favoring his team in the running game against Green Bay’s 31st ranked run defense, especially if Nick Perry is out. Perry is Green Bay’s best edge run defender and he is very much needed for this game, as the run defense struggled in Minnesota without him.

Legarratte Blount ran for 78 yards on only 12 carries last week because Belichick knew he had an edge in the passing game against Detroit. Hoever, Blount ran very well averaging 6.1 yards per carry and is the kind of back that can give the Packers trouble. He is not as good but similar to Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore in their pounding rushing styles, who both kill the Packers. If Green Bay is not tackling well Blount is capable of doing damage, especially if the secondary isn’t committed to taking him on.

Brady is hard enough to defend alone, but add a running game to go with him and a defense does not have much hope. If you can get a good pass rush on Brady you can neutralize him because he cannot make the same plays outside of the pocket that Rodgers can. It’s much easier to pin your ears back and rush the passer if you are in a good down and distance and do not have to worry about the run.

You can use more resources to control the run and guard Rob Gronkowski if you let Sam Shields and Tramon Williams deal with Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell on their own. Neither is a dynamic receiver and Williams and Shields are a big strength of Green Bay’s defense. You should expect them to be able to do a good job without much help. This will allow a safety to help double up on Gronkowski.

All eyes will be on Brady and Rodgers, but whichever team can get a good running game going may have the upper hand in this game.


Matt Bove is a writer at You can follow him on twitter at @RayRobert9.