Found December 28, 2012 on
Boston Sports Then & Now:
Little big man: Danny Woodhead often leaves some opposing defenders with this look as they try to figure out how a person his size got by them.
When the Patriots need a spark on offense, which believe it or not, they sometimes do, the team often finds themselves turning to the little man with the big heart, Danny Woodhead. The 5-foot-8-inch running back from the slightly undersized town of North Platte, Neb., has given the No. 1 offense in the league in 2012 yet another weapon that opposing defenses need to prepare for.
Though there aren’t many backfields around the league that Danny would head, he got his chance with the Patriots in 2010 after being let go by the Jets and hasn’t disappointed in his time in Foxboro. While playing behind starting backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and now Stevan Ridley, Woodhead has been used mostly on 3rd down and in the no-huddle offense. Fortunately for him, the no-huddle is something that the Pats run on almost every series and something that his incredible quickness is perfect for.
Particularly in the last two weeks against the 49ers and Jaguars, the play of Woodhead has been crucial for New England. Though they couldn’t quite get the W against San Francisco, Woodhead helped to get them back into the game for sure. His 12 carries for 61 yards and two touchdowns allowed them to have a fighting chance and climb out of the 28-point hole in the 2nd half. He also added five catches for 23 yards, showcasing his versatility on the national Sunday Night stage and accumulating his highest rushing output of the year to date.
And last week? With the offense struggling again, Tom Brady found Woodhead on a 17-yard pass just before the half to tie the score at 13. Before that, it had been all Jacksonville and after that, the Patriots gained control for the most part. No. 39 finished with three carries for seven yards to go along with two receptions for 38 yards and the one big touchdown. The little man’s getting bigger as the calendar’s getting thinner.
I don’t think his touchdown catch and presence on the final drive of the 1st half should be overlooked at all. Though it likely won’t, the touchdown has the potential to be a season-changing one. It could end up being the difference between a No. 3 seed and no 1st round bye and a No. 1 seed and home field advantage if the Broncos and Texans both somehow lose this weekend. We shall have to wait and see.
While his contributions in the last two weeks have certainly caught the eye of at least one Patriots fan, he has been an offensive presence for the team all season long. In fact, only once this year has he played in a game and not touched the ball – the Week 10 59-24 blowout win over Indianapolis. To be honest, does it look they really needed him that day?
Woodhead continues to get better now in his fourth year in the league out of Division II Chadron St (Chadron, Neb.). Four of his ten career rushing touchdowns have come this season and so have three out of his four career receiving touchdowns. His only two career multi-touchdown games have come this season in Weeks 10 and 15 against the Bills and 49ers.
In his first three NFL seasons, he was mainly used in 3rd down situations, similar to the way that Kevin Faulk was used throughout his long career. This year, however, he has been called upon in pretty much every situation throughout the course of the game and his role has expanded. That’s very good news for a team who has been nearly unstoppable this year when presenting a balanced offensive front.
Although Woodhead had one of his best games this season against the 49ers, Brady threw the ball 65 times and obviously that is not balance. It just would have been more impressive had his big performance come in a win.
Like fellow little guy Wes Welker, Woodhead can really hurt opponents on 3rd down because he can get the ball in so many different ways and make nearly anybody miss in the open field when he has it. He can line up in the backfield, flanking Brady or in the slot and can do damage on a simple screen pass, an unexpected draw play on by running a pattern downfield. Just like Faulk. If he’s on the field on 3rd & long, he’s probably getting it.
This season, Woodhead has gone from a special teams player to a mainstay on the offense while continuing to cover kickoffs, which is no easy task. His playoff experience could help the team come January if Ridley or Shane Vereen, who is, for all intents and purposes, a rookie, begin to struggle or catch the fumble bug. Woodhead has lost only one fumble in his four-year career.
With Ridley perhaps due to get some rest in the final game of the season this week against the Dolphins, Woodhead could see a heavier load of rushes than he is used to. His production and the fact that he has not lost a fumble in 2012 could present him with the opportunity for another big day against a Miami run D that is allowing slightly better than 100 yards per game this season.
Woodhead and the Pats take on the Dolphins in the regular season finale Sunday at 4:25 at Gillette Stadium.
Follow me on Twitter @RealAndyLarmand.
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
It’s been the Tom Brady show since 2007, but before that, the defense was a thing of beauty in New England. The likes of Richard Seymour, Asante Samuel, Mike Vrabel and Ted Bruschi carved out the Patriot Way; they played it hard, but worked it harder.
This is the defense Bill Belichick wants, he’s just waiting for them to grow up. Belichick has his pass rusher in Chandler Jones...
New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is expected to play Sunday against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, according to CSN New England. Gronkowski, who has been out the past five games with a broken forearm, is listed as questionable on the team's injury report. If he takes the field, he is expected to play in a limited role. Gronkowski has 53 catches for 748 yards with...
You were expecting Bill Belichick to say something more excited.
The Patriots’ head coach has long been known as someone to never stray off message, and that wasn’t changing on Friday, the Pats’ second to last practice before playing Miami on Sunday. Although the Patriots could wind up in a number of different playoff scenarios, the only thing the team can control at this point...
It’s hard to believe, but another NFL regular season winds down this weekend. Another season of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will be in the books. What a run it has been. Why not try to enjoy it while we still have it?
As for Sunday, it seems pretty simple. If the Texans win, I think the Patriots treat this week as their bye. As many key players as possible will be rested. There...
Rob Gronkowski has been back at practice for a couple of weeks, but the forearm injury that has sidelined him since Nov. 18 has kept him from returning to games.
That could change this Sunday, though.
While initial reports have been that Gronkowski will not play against the Dolphins as the Patriots get ready for the playoffs, Mike Reiss of ESPN reports that Gronkowski has increased...
Gronk Should Play In The Season Finale.
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is on the cusp of returning from a broken forearm that he suffered against the Colts. He has been out of action for almost 6 weeks and is listed as questionable for the season finale versus the Dolphins. Most seasons a game on the last weekend was meaningless, but not this year.
Gronk needs to play and here...
Tom Brady was in his second season as a pro when he won his first playoff game.
Now as a 13-year veteran, the New England Patriots star needs one more victory to break a tie with Joe Montana for most in the postseason by a quarterback.
He'd love to get his 17th on Sunday against the Houston Texans, not just to reach the milestone but to also advance to the AFC championship...
“The Patriots have run 1,116 plays this season, and if they run 84 in Sunday’s game...
Tom Brady is now up to 8 INTs on the season, but not so long ago he only had 3. Brady has always been streaky when it comes to INTs. Hopefully he can start another INT-free streak heading into the postseason. Still, let's examine why he has fallen into this little slump as of late.Brady throws a lot of passes into tight windows, so tipped passes are usually the main culprit of...
Vince Wilfork‘s wallet is a little lighter this week. Pat Chung‘s is still the same.
Wilfork was fined $30,000 by the NFL for hitting Jaguars offensive lineman Steve Vallos in the head at the end of a fourth-quarter punt return, according to the NFL. The defensive lineman was flagged for unnecessary roughness on the play, resulting in a 15-yard penalty.
Chung, on the other...
Expect to see Rob Gronkowski suited up and playing Sunday in at least a limited role, according to...
Christmas has come and gone and we’re heading full steam into the new year with plenty of chips left to fall in the NFL playoff picture.
The Falcons reign supreme atop the NFC standings, but beyond them there isn’t much else settled. As for the AFC, the teams are set but it’s anyone’s guess as to how the top four seeds will end up.
The Patriots are in an interesting position...
Week 17 is usually one of the weirdest weeks in all of football. Teams that have clinched first round byes in the playoffs usually sit star players, while bottom feeder teams sit starters to look at young talent and get a better draft pick. Luckily, both teams in this match-up have something to play for. The 11-4 New England Patriots look to clinch a first round bye with a...
The Miami Dolphins will play against the New England Patriots on Sunday. CBS will carry the game which kicks off at 4:25 pm EST from Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA.
New England figures to start all of its healthy players as they still have a chance at a first round bye should the Texans or Broncos lose. The Patriots won head-to-head contests against both teams.
What is the points...