FOXBORO, Mass. -- Mike LeBlanc gave the New England Patriots - replacement players or regulars -- something the club has not had in quite a while: a running game.
The Patriots, who last season became the first team in 20 years to average less than 3 yards a carry, accumulated 213 yards rushing Sunday as New England beat the Buffalo Bills 14-7.
LeBlanc, recently released by Winnipeg of the CFL and signed by the Patriots as a replacement, gained 146 yards on 35 carries.
While LeBlanc was running circles around the Bills before the smallest Sullivan Stadium crowd ever -- 11,878 rain-soaked fans - striking Patriots quietly walked the picket line.
No incidents were reported on the New England picket line outside the stadium during the second week of demonstrations by striking NFL players at games played by replacement players.
LeBlanc keyed a running attack that accumulated the most New England rushing yards since the final game of the 1985 season, the year in which the Patriots used a ground attack to reach the Super Bowl.
'He (LeBlanc) played exactly like we thought he would before we got him,' New England coach Raymond Berry said. 'He cut and slashed all over the place.'
'I don't know if we planned on running as much as we did, I think the weather had a lot to do with that. The running game was there and we stayed with it. We moved the ball fairly well,' said New England running back Bruce Hansen.
While the running attack flourished, the New England passing game was pitiful. Bob Bleier completed just 4 of 13 throws for 43 yards and was intercepted once.
'It's kind of like stepping into the batter's box in major-league baseball and hitting a 95 mph fastball,' said Berry of the poor passing game. 'It's a very advanced skill and takes time in the amount of work preparation. It's just easier handing the ball off.'
The Patriots survived cold rain, stiff winds and three blocked punts to raise their record to 2-2 and move into a four-way tie for first place in the AFC East. The Bills, at 1-3, are the only team in the division not in first place.
The Bills, who were outgained 256 yards to 168, struggled on offense for the second consecutive week. Buffalo lost 47-6 to Indianapolis last week.
'We missed too many tackles today,' Bills coach Marv Levy said. 'The players tried harder and I'm proud of them for that. They played with spirit and I admire them for that.'
New England took a 7-0 lead at 8:34 of the first quarter on a Carl Woods 4-yard touchdown run. LeBlanc had a 42-yard burst to move New England to the Bills 23-yard line.
At 6:36 of the third quarter, Bleier scored on a 1-yard touchdown run to raise New England's lead to 14-0. The score was set up when linebacker Greg Moore recovered quarterback Willie Totten's fumbled snap at the Buffalo 19. A LeBlanc scamper of 14 yards keyed the march.
Buffalo closed to 14-7 with 3:03 gone in the fourth quarter when Totten tossed a 13-yard touchdown pass to Thad McFadden. Buffalo linebacker Scott Watters partially blocked Alan Herline's punt to put the Bills on the Patriot 16.
Buffalo had a chance to tie late in the game, but defensive lineman Dino Mangiero sacked Totten for an 8-yard loss to the New England 30 as time expired.