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Patriots Notebook

Forecast of rain may whet appetite for the running game

Email|Print| Text size + By Christopher L. Gasper
Globe Staff / December 23, 2007

FOXBOROUGH - The forecast for today's game between the Patriots and Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium calls for rain, which could mean the Patriots call for a heavy dose of running back Laurence Maroney.

Maroney had a career-high 26 carries last week in a 20-10 victory over the New York Jets, rushing for 104 yards and a score.

With Miami last in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing 155.9 yards per game, Maroney could be a big part of the game plan again.

"We try to run it. We try to throw it. We try to do everything as far as balance is concerned, unless the weather conditions are so terrible that you can't do one or the other," said offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. "I think we want to go into every game doing that.

"That, last week, was part of our game plan of giving him the ball and running the ball, and I think we did a pretty good job of doing that."

Maroney, who has 152 rushes for 633 yards and three touchdowns this season, said regardless of how many opportunities to tote the ball he gets, he takes the same approach.

"I didn't even know how many carries I got [last week]," he said.

"You know whenever you call my number, I'm going to carry it, even if it's 20, 26, 8, 30 [times]. I'm not sitting there during the game like, 'Well, that's two carries. That's four carries.' I ain't really counting. It's just whenever they call my number, I'm going to carry it and do the best I can do with it on that play."

Maroney, who missed three games earlier this season with a groin injury and has had the injury-prone label, said his body was feeling fine after the 26-carry performance.

That should help silence those who don't think he's capable of being a workhorse back.

"I don't know. It's one of those things, man. No matter how many games I play in a row or how good I do, in the back of their minds the next time I do get hurt - hopefully, I don't get hurt - it's always going to be an issue," said Maroney.

Short subject

Stephen Gostkowski has not tried a field goal of 50 yards or longer this season and with the change in the weather, he might not. Gostkowski, who made a Gillette Stadium-record 52-yarder last season, said the ball doesn't travel as far when it's colder.

"Obviously, this time of year, a 50-some-odd-yard field goal is probably not your best bet," said Gostkowski, who has made 18 of 21 kicks this season. "It's probably not a high-percentage kick, so we just try to range what we can get."

That range is determined before the game by special teams coach Brad Seely, who watches Gostkowski in warm-ups and reports to coach Bill Belichick.

"You just have to make sure you get solid contact almost every time when the conditions are worse," said Gostkowski. "When it's warm, you can mishit one and it can still go a far way. When it's cold, you have to make sure you hit it on the sweet spot almost every time or else it's just not going to go where you want it to go or as far as you want it to go.

"There have been kickoffs where it gets to the 5 or the goal line where in my heart I know if it was 50, 60, 70 degrees it'd be 5 yards into the end zone or a touchback. You just have to deal with it."

Work picking up

Asante Samuel has proven that his 2006 season, when he tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with 10, was no fluke. The cornerback has six interceptions this season, tied for fourth in the league. With one more pick, Samuel would become the first Patriot to record back-to-back seasons with seven or more interceptions. Did Samuel ever doubt he could repeat 2006?

"I don't look at it like that," he said. "I just try to go out and get better and try to make every game better than the one before. That was one of my goals . . . to play better than I ever have before."

Crowder on IR

The Dolphins placed linebacker Channing Crowder on injured reserve yesterday, ending his season. Crowder had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Tuesday. Defensive end Jason Taylor, who was listed as probable with a foot injury, practiced Friday and made the trip with the team yesterday. Taylor still appears to be a game-time decision . . . The Patriots promoted safety Ray Ventrone off the practice squad, filling the final spot on their 53-man roster.

Mike Reiss of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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