FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- They all knew.
The New England Patriots coaches knew. The offensive players knew. The defensive players knew.
And, most likely, there were many fans in the crowd of 68,756 at Gillette Stadium on Sunday afternoon who knew that running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis was closing in on a 1,000-yard rushing season, quite an accomplishment for the third-year undrafted running back who began the year fourth or fifth on the depth chart at the position.
So in the regular-season finale against Miami that was meaningless in the standings, and with New England routing the Dolphins in what would become a 38-7 thrashing, New England kept feeding the ball to Green-Ellis.
The yards were being yielded grudgingly.
When the Patriots took over at their own 47 with 4:55 remaining in the third quarter, Green-Ellis was a mere 27 yards from the magic 1,000. On the next eight plays, Green was handed the ball six times by backup quarterback Brian Hoyer. Those plays netted a total of only 23 yards.
Moving the pile for yardage was like pulling teeth. As the quarter came to a close and the Pats moved from one end of the field to the other, Green-Ellis still was 4 yards shy of the milestone. Green-Ellis was moving slowly down the field to the Miami 21-yard line. Coach Bill Belichick intercepted him and had a brief chat with him.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, the Pats, leading by 38-0, were faced with a third-and-18. Hoyer handed the ball to Green-Ellis. He was gang-tackled as he pounded the middle, dragged down after 2 more yards, leaving him at 998 yards and New England with a fourth-and-16.
Belichick kept the offense on the field. The Dolphins were so surprised they called a timeout and then went with a seven-defensive-back alignment, clearly expecting New England to pass for the 16 yards.
That, of course, was not the Patriots' plan. The play called for Hoyer to -- surprise! -- hand the ball off to Green-Ellis.
This time, Green-Ellis mercifully found a crease in the line and raced for 10 yards. The Patriots did not get a first down out of the run, but Green-Ellis finally had slipped past the 1,000-yard mark.
He was greeted with hugs by the offense on the field as he cradled the ball and made his way to the sideline, where he exchanged hugs with, among others, Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady and offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia.
After the game, Green-Ellis was typically self-effacing in talking about the milestone he achieved.
"It feels good but none of it would be possible without the offensive line and the tight ends blocking and everyone working hard in practice. It's not really an individual accomplishment. If anyone says they got 1,000 yards by themselves they'd be lying to you," said Green-Ellis, a 5-foot-11, 215-pounder who played his college ball at Mississippi.
Green-Ellis' dedication to his craft and to the team made it easy for his teammates to root for him to get to 1,000.
"I'm happy for him. [Getting 1,000 yards is] always a good thing," said offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer. "You always try to block so guys can run, but we're proud of him."
Veteran running back Fred Taylor, whom Green-Ellis considers a mentor, was proud, too, but didn't want any reflected glory to take away from Green-Ellis' accomplishment.
"Please, you guys, do not give me [credit] or take his shine away from him," said Taylor. "I don't deserve that credit. It's him. He wants it. And a lot of times I find him motivating me to push forward. Benny has been steady and he's been wanting it. He's a young guy with an old soul. He's very mature, very smart and he's passionate about what he's doing. That's BenJarvus."
One thing that has been impressive about Green-Ellis is that he didn't get down on himself when he found himself behind Kevin Faulk, Laurence Maroney, Taylor and Sammy Morris on the running back depth chart.
"The coaches always tell us to work hard because you never know what can happen in the course of a season," said Green-Ellis. "So I just went out and worked hard and good things happened."
More than 1,000 good things, in fact, enabling BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who finished the season with 1,008 yards, to become the New England Patriots' first running back to crack the 1,000-yard plateau since Corey Dillon in 2004.
Steven Krasner is a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com.