FOXBORO - Think of the Patriots of the Bill Belichick Era, and you think of passing, right? Tom Brady flinging away to Troy Brown, Deion Branch, Randy Moss and his current stable of talented tight ends, right?
The 2012 edition is a little different, however. Brady has his share of weaponry, but on Sunday, he got a huge assist from two of his running backs to keep on pace to the playoffs.
"You know, whatever the coaches ask me to do, I'm going to do," said diminutive running back Danny Woodhead, who scored two touchdowns for the first time in his career in Sunday's 37-31 win over the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium.
"If it's blocking, if it's playing special teams, if it's running or catching, I'm a football player," he added. "That's what I try to be is a football player, and to do whatever I'm supposed to do on a particular play to the best of my abilities."
"That's the leader in our room," added an admiring Stevan Ridley, who picked up 98 yards on 22 carries to bring his season total to 814 yards after nine games. "Woody does it all. He runs well, he catches well. He's a threat for the defenses. They've got to find the little short guy out there somewhere, but most of the time he's making plays and it's too late. My hat's off to Woody for leading our room and doing it strong."
It was only fitting that Woodhead, now in the third-down role once manned by Kevin Faulk, had his first two-TD game on the day when the Patriots honored the retired Faulk at halftime.
Woodhead went up the middle for a 15-yard touchdown run with 9:09 left in the second quarter - his only carry of the game - and then added an 18-yard touchdown catch with 7:06 left in the third quarter to give the Patriots their largest lead (31-17).
Woodhead did not seem impressed with his own accomplishment.
"That's not something I'm too concerned with," he said. "The team comes so far before myself, and it's the win that matters. It's not myself getting two touchdowns."
Patriots' coach Bill Belichick was impressed enough to break with his usual protocol of tempering post-game praise to cite Woodhead with a job well done.
"Danny is a versatile player," he said. "He does a lot of things well. He's good in the passing game. He's got a good feel for man and zone coverages and getting open and he does a good job in blitz pickup. He runs well, reads his blocks well, he's got good quickness, he's got some speed and really, he runs strong for a smaller player."
Ridley also had a strong game, with five carries of 9 or more yards, a longest tote of 24 yards, and a touchdown. But the second-year veteran had one glitch, a false-start penalty on the Patriots' final possession that forced them to settle for a field goal instead of a possible touchdown to make it a two-possession game for Buffalo inside the last two minutes.
"That's a mental error by me," he said. "That's something that I have to do better on and I can't continue to live by. That's a blow to us because we're lining up to punch the ball in and get a touchdown and get a false start and bring us back.
"Those are things we have to eliminate to play cleaner football," he added.