INDIANAPOLIS – One back is a speedster that can it to the edge and go. Another has been described in the same frame as Jerome Bettis. Then there's the third-down running back.
Quarterback Tom Brady is rightfully the focal point of the Patriots offense, but the Indianapolis Colts will have to worry to about New England's three running backs in Saturday's AFC divisional playoff game.
"Those three guys will do anything that's needed," Colts defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois said. "They've got three tremendous backs."
Ridley rushed for 773 yards this season. Blount was right behind him with 772 yards despite having 25 fewer attempts. Vereen, the third-down back, rushed for 208 yards to go with 427 receiving yards.
The three of them are an important part of New England's offense because it allows Brady to be effective in the play-action passing game. Brady isn't a runner, having only rushed for 18 yards on 32 attempts this season. The Patriots, who averaged 136.5 yards a game on the ground this season, were ninth in the league in rushing compared to 10th in the league in passing.
The Colts gave up an average of 137.5 yards rushing this season.
"We know how potent that offense is," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "We know the signal caller is a future first-ballot Hall of Famer. They are very balanced. You can't just go in and say hey you got to get after Tom and put pressure on him and get him off the spot and try to frustrate him. From a schematic standpoint, disguise, all those type of things, they are balanced."
Blount is the Patriots' lead running back when they go with a more conventional set. His 189 yards rushing in the regular season finale against Buffalo were the most by a New England back in 15 years. Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky described Blount as being a big-body guy that breaks through tackles and runs downhill.
The Patriots thrive with Vereen as their third-down back. They were 50-of-114 on third down with him on the field. They were 83-of-221 on third down during the eight games he missed.
"Three different types of situational runners that we've talked about all week," Manusky said. "We'll continue to talk about who is the back in the game because you have to know; pretty good, pretty talented. We have to make sure we surround them with as many hats as possible."