Touchdown-less Maroney won't change his game

Eric McHugh

The Patriots have scored a whopping 46 touchdowns, by far the most in the NFL.

You would think Laurence Maroney would have gotten at least one of them, right?

Nope. The franchise running back still has goose eggs next to his name on the stat sheet, running (89 carries for 417 yards, a 4.7-yard average) and receiving (2-37).

Kyle Eckel has a touchdown. So do backup quarterback Matt Cassel (rushing), linebacker Adalius Thomas (interception return) and defensive backs Ellis Hobbs and Willie Andrews (kickoff returns). Heck, Tom Brady (rushing), Kyle Brady and Mike Vrabel have two each. Yes, Randy Moss has 12, but he's from another planet.

When it comes to scoring, Maroney, who missed three games with a groin injury, has been something of a slacker. And he's OK with that.

“You see the victories that we have?” he said, referring to the Patriots' 9-0 start. “I can't be upset. As long as we're winning, I'm happy, even though I ain't reached the end zone ... As long as we keep winning, I don't care if I never make it to the end zone.”

Well, that's not entirely true.

“I feel like my day is going to come,” he declared a few moments later. “I always feel like they can't stop a star from shining. I'm going to get my chance sooner or later.”

Fullback Heath Evans said we shouldn't view Maroney's lack of scoring as anything more than a quirk. The Patriots have eight rushing TDs overall – tied for 12th best in the league - with Sammy Morris, now on injured reserve, still leading the way with three. Kevin Faulk's first TD was the game-winning catch against the Colts.

“This team's not about (who scores) touchdowns,” Evans said. “I've been our goal-line back all year and I've got one.”

Maroney had six rushing TDs as a rookie last year – three from a yard out, the others covering 11, 25 and 27 yards. He also had a 19-yard TD catch. The problem this season is that Pats haven't put the ball in his hands down near the goal line. When they're not passing they often have preferred the brute force of Evans (6-foot, 250 pounds) paired with moonlighting fullback Junior Seau (6-3, 250).

The knock on Maroney (5-11, 220) has been that he dances too much before hitting the hole. That's poison in the relatively confined space near the end zone, where all 11 defenders are never far away. Still, Maroney said he isn't going to radically alter his game.

“A lot of folks want to talk about how somebody runs, but ask them if they've ever run the ball before,” he said. “Everybody thinks it's so easy – just get the ball and go run. There's more to it.

“I didn't try to hide my running style (from the Patriots). They knew my running style before they drafted me. They drafted me because of my running style and what I was able to do on the collegiate level. So I feel like I shouldn't have to change. That ain't what got me here. I'm going to be me.”

Corey Dillon was a battering ram/touchdown machine in his three seasons here, rushing for 12, 12 and 13 scores. Although Maroney said he would love to see the retired veteran replace Morris (“It'd be back to the old ways – me and the Big Fella playing around like always”) the Patriots don't appear to be biting on a potential comeback. An associate of Steve Feldman, Dillon's agent, yesterday said, “There's nothing going on right now.”

If there is no reunion, Maroney is ready to make a go of it with Faulk, Evans and Eckel backing him up. The Patriots' passing game has gotten all of the publicity so far, but Maroney said the seventh-ranked running game might be poised for bigger things with winter closing in.

First stop: Orchard Park, N.Y., on Sunday night.

“When you're playing football growing up, you know when the weather starts getting nasty, you run the ball,” he said. “It's the same philosophy in the NFL. Those games are fun – messy field, (no) traction. Those are the best games.”

Back in the day, Antowain Smith always used to crank it up around the holidays. Maroney is far more elusive than Smith ever was, but as Evans pointed out, “This time of year hopefully he's not going to be too shifty. Just get his big 220-pound frame downhill and let people feel the power that he can bring.”

The Patriots rushed for a season-high 177 yards against the Bills in a 38-7 home win in Week 3. Maroney had his lone 100-yard outing (19 carries for 103 yards) but missed the next three weeks.

Maybe he can rediscover the end zone in the rematch. Any dance he's been keeping under wraps?

“I've never been a celebration guy,” Maroney said, “but I think my first one I might cut up, though.”

If not, hey, life goes on.

“It's just stats,” he said. “It really doesn't mean anything to me. As long as somebody in the red zone scores, I'm all right. It doesn't have to be me.”

Maroney at a glance

With no touchdowns this season, Laurence Maroney lags far behind injured Bills rookie running back Marshawn Lynch (six rushing TDs). Colts running back Joseph Addai, drafted nine spots after Maroney in 2006, has run for seven scores.

But Maroney is in good company in Patriots annals. Fourteen times in franchise history, the Pats' leading rusher has run for three or fewer TDs. On five occasions, the No. 1 back has rushed for a single score.

The one-shot wonders: Jon Vaughn in 1992, Craig James in 1984, Tony Collins in 1982, Carl Garrett in 1971 and Al Miller in 1960.

-- The Patriot Ledger