FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots cornerback Ellis Hobbs spotted Maurice Jones-Drew's talent from the start. Now he'll have to stop him.
In his first game as a starter, Jones-Drew rushed for 131 yards and two touchdowns and caught six passes in the next-to-last game last season. New England edged Jacksonville 24-21.
"I remember talking about him last year," Hobbs said Tuesday. "Guys questioned me, 'Could he be an all-down back?' I was one of the first ones to say, 'Yeah, this guy, he's the truth out there.' "
Taylor, a 10-year veteran, and Drew-Jones, in his second season, combined to rush for 1,970 yards, the second-best tandem behind Minnesota's Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor.
"They both have different qualities," defensive end Richard Seymour said. "Jones-Drew is a little short, bowling-ball type guy that runs hard, and Fred Taylor, he's shifty in the hole and brings a lot of power. He has the speed to give that home run hit.
"They both bring different dimensions. We have to understand who's in the game and it's going to be up to our front seven to really shut down this running game."
In posting the first 16-0 regular season in NFL history, the Patriots allowed just three runners to gain more than 100 yards. But teams have been forced to pass because they've fallen behind by big margins.
The 6-foot-1 Taylor rushed for at least 104 yards in each of his last five regular-season games and finished the season with 1,202. Drew finished with 768 yards rushing.
Despite his size, Jones-Drew packs a punch.
"He's a very physical runner," Hobbs said. "big legs, hard to tackle him on the legs, hard to tackle him up high. You just have to hope and pray that when you hit him, somebody else is right behind you to hit him also because it's going to take more than one man to bring him down."
Even when he goes down, he doesn't always go all the way down.
"Well, Kyle was trying to tackle him on that play. I think Kyle knew he was going to be a Patriot this year," Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio joked.
Jones-Drew scored on a 43-yard swing pass and a 10-yard run and returned a kickoff 96 yards to set up Taylor's 1-yard touchdown run.
"I think (Taylor's) playing the best type of football he has in his career," linebacker Tedy Bruschi said. "Jones-Drew ... can't be underestimated because of his size."
Jones-Drew was third on the Jaguars with 40 receptions and blocks well. He and Taylor are powerful runners with breakaway speed.
If the Patriots can control them, quarterback David Garrard will have more pressure to produce. But they know shutting down both runners will be difficult.
"Great running backs," Patriots linebacker Adalius Thomas said, "one-two punch. That's a handful. Both of them can break games open. (They) can catch the ball out of the backfield, do a good job blocking in pass protection. They have the complete package."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press