Maroney Benched, Morris Steps Up
|12.27.09 at 7:15 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots offense ran out of the gate with an 82-yard drive that stalled on the Jaguars’ 1-yard line after a Laurence Maroney fumble. It was the second time this season Maroney fumbled on the goal line. It also was the last time No. 39 touched the playing field on Sunday.
Despite Maroney averaging 4.4 yards per carry on the first drive, Bill Belichick elected to sit him and go with the trio of running backs Sammy Morris, Fred Taylor and Kevin Faulk. After the game, Taylor told reporters Maroney was eager to get another chance.
Since training camp, Taylor has taken Maroney under his wing and has given him advice when he felt necessary. The veteran running back said he encouraged the young back during the game after the fumble.
“We talked throughout the game,” Taylor added. “I just told him, ‘In all situations, try to pull something positive from it.’ God works in mysterious ways, we all know that. I just told him, ‘Whether good or bad, it happened for a reason. So just be patient, find a positive and keep your head up.’ ”
Overall, the four Patriots running backs managed to run for 193 yards on 34 carries. Sammy Morris got the bulk of the carries when Maroney was benched and really stepped up, averaging 7.9 yards per carry. He finished the game with 95 rushing yards on 12 carries. The 32-year-old running back had just 10 total carries in the previous two games. Following the win against the Jaguars, Morris was proud of his performance but more excited that the Patriots clinched the AFC East.
Taylor, who has been inactive since Week 4, returned Sunday and played against his former team of 11 years. Taylor had 35 yards on 11 carries. Following the win, Taylor spoke about what it was like lining up against his former teammates.
“Looking across, it was just like practicing again,” Taylor said. “Like training camp practices where you would go all out and you would actually hit each other. Only difference is, in the real game, they get to throw you on the ground; in practice they couldn’t. But a lot of laughs, small trash — friendly trash-talking … But overall it was good to see all those guys and get a chance to just play against them.”
The 33-year-old running back was more excited that his team just clinched the division and a playoff berth.
“That feels even better,” he said. “It’s been about nine years since I’ve had a hat and T-shirt, so I’m definitely going to frame mine up, box it up, throw it in the attic. Memories, man, that’s what it’s all about.”
For the first time since Oct. 4, all five of the Patriots running backs are healthy. Perfect timing for a team that is preparing for the playoffs.
Fred Taylor and Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew agreed before the game to exchange jerseys. Following the Patriots win, Taylor received Jones-Drew’s game jersey but Taylor’s was accidentally thrown to the wash. Taylor is planning on getting Jones-Drew a jersey in the near future.
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