Thursday Reaction: What Happened to Brandon Bolden Last Night?

I told all of you this week to bid aggressively for Brandon Bolden in your yearly leagues and plug him very cheaply into your DFS lineups.  His one-touch performance torpedoed many of your evenings, but don’t let that taint the guy for you.  The owners who hyper-react to tiny sample sizes are the ones who’ve dealt away LeSean McCoy and Vincent Jackson for Darren Sproles and Allen Hurns.

Before you react to last night’s game, consider the factors that contributed to Bolden’s lack of presence in the Patriot gameplan:

  1. The Jets flat-out dominated the ball.  The Patriots ran 67 plays/game through their first six; last night, they managed just 53 while holding the ball for only 19:06.  With a typical complement of offensive snaps, I’m quite confident Bolden will make his way onto the field and/or Shane Vereen will find his way off of it.
  2. The Patriots abandoned the inside run.  Last night, the team ran the ball between the tackles just four times – and two of those came on their clock-killing final drive.  Makes sense, considering the Jets are absolutely beastly against the run.  They came into the game allowing just 3.5 YPC, and most of their most effective run-stoppers play inside.  Bill Belichick’s gameplan was quite clearly based on throwing the ball and testing the edges with Vereen.
  3. The Patriots leaned disproportionately on the pass.  As I pointed out Tuesday, the Patriots can be categorized as a pretty run-heavy team.  Since 2010, they’ve run the rock 42.9% of the time at 29.5 rushes/game.  Entering last night’s game, their 2014 mark stood at 43.7% rushing and 29.7 runs per contest.  Against the Jets, they ran it 28.3% of the time, just 15 times.  Which mark do you trust more: last night’s close game against a great run defense, or their previous 70 overall?

In sum, we can take away four things from last night’s game:

1. The Patriots will run the ball much, much more in most games.

2. The Patriots will run the ball inside much, much more when they’re not facing an elite interior run defense.

3. Bill Belichick’s offensive gameplan is impossible to predict.

4. Brandon Bolden is currently only a rotational cog in that gameplan.

Numbers three and four are very scary, of course, for anyone who took my advice and aggressively pursued Bolden, but take heart.  The guy certainly isn’t valueless.  Things change from week to week on pretty much every NFL team, and on no team is that more evident than this one.  There will be weeks in which Belichick wants to pound the rock with an experienced inside runner and Bolden seizes a healthy share of the backfield load.  Granted, they’ll be difficult to predict, but there’s still value in Bolden. Running back consistency has been impossible to project this season, a problem compounded by bye weeks over the next month.  So don’t cut the guy loose just yet.  I’ll be holding Bolden and, if need be, plugging him into my lineups when the Pats are likely to pound the football.  They play some very good teams down the stretch, but have some juicy matchups looming against Indianapolis and Green Bay.

Last night took a fair amount of luster off of my intense Bolden love, but the bubble didn’t pop entirely.


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