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Test for rushing defense

Raiders are making gains on the ground

Former Patriot Gerard Warren may be returning to Foxborough soon to help out along the defensive line. Former Patriot Gerard Warren may be returning to Foxborough soon to help out along the defensive line. (Elsa/Getty Images)
By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / September 28, 2011

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The Patriots defense seems to bring out the best in opposing quarterbacks.

In three games, all three opposing quarterbacks have recorded a season high in passing yards. But this weekend’s challenge may be a little different, as the Patriots prepare for the Oakland Raiders, who lead the NFL in rushing yards (185 yards a game).

Darren McFadden and Michael Bush lead the Raiders rushing attack, which included a 171-yard performance by McFadden (19 carries) in a 34-24 win against the New York Jets last week.

“They definitely like to run the ball,’’ Bill Belichick said. “They have good backs, a good offensive line. They emphasize it a lot - you can see they’re pretty good at it. Those backs are really special.

“They throw enough deep balls and they do enough in the passing game to make you worry about that, too. You can’t just stop one thing.’’

The Patriots are allowing an average of 91 rushing yards a game, which ranks them 10th. But teams have found more success in the air. In the season opener, Miami’s Chad Henne completed 30 of 49 passes for 416 yards and two touchdowns.

The next week, it was San Diego’s Philip Rivers who completed 29 of 40 passes for 378 yards and two touchdowns. And in Sunday’s loss to the Bills, Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 27 of 40 passes for 369 yards and two touchdowns.

It may seem that the Raiders lean heavily on their running game, but Belichick said they are proving to be a balanced offense, as they showed against the Jets.

“They definitely ran it, and that opened up some things in the passing game,’’ Belichick said. “They kind of do what they usually do. They mix in some gadget plays, some reverses, some things like that, along with their power running game and do a good job in their passing game of getting the ball down the field and also getting it to their backs and underneath people, too.

“They make you defend the whole field, and any time you can be successful running the ball, that opens up the play-action and the passing game and everything else. It’s good complementary football.’’

Warren returning? The Patriots will bring back veteran defensive lineman Gerard Warren, according to a league source. Warren was cut Sept. 7 to make room for tight end Dan Gronkowski. At the time, Belichick said he could see Warren returning if the Patriots needed him. The Patriots had room for Warren once they released defensive lineman Landon Cohen yesterday. Cohen re-signed with the Patriots last week after being cut Sept. 3. Warren, who played from 2007-09 with the Raiders, is in his 11th NFL season. He would provide depth on a line that was without Albert Haynesworth (back) Sunday. Warren worked with the defensive line in a series of rotations during the preseason.

Keeping busy Julian Edelman knows he could find himself in any number of situations in the midst of a game. On Sunday, he was in the backfield, registering two carries and getting more involved in the passing game against Buffalo. “I just do whatever I’m told by the coaching staff and whatever I can do to help the team’’ said Edelman, who helped the Patriots Charitable Foundation celebrate volunteerism with a visit to Morse Pond School in Falmouth yesterday. It can be quite a bit for Edelman to keep up with, as he also handles kickoff and punt returns this season. So far, Edelman is averaging 11.3 yards on punt returns and 23.9 yards on kickoffs.

Shalise Manza Young of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Monique Walker can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @monwalker.

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