FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Laurence Maroney ran to his left and waited. His chance was about to come.
"Hopefully, I was going to catch them sleeping, and I did," he said.
Tomlinson's status is uncertain after a knee injury sidelined him for most of Sunday's 28-24 win over the Indianapolis.
Still, there's no longer any doubt about Maroney, a bystander most of the season to New England's record-breaking combo of Brady and Randy Moss. Opponents realize they must pay attention to the shifty 220-pounder who doesn't mind running over would-be tacklers.
"I don't think he probably had all of the opportunities he would have hoped," Brady said. "But his role has been whatever he's got and he's been extremely productive."
Not really, unless the quarterback is talking about the last four games.
In the first 13, Maroney missed three with a groin injury and cracked the 100-yard rushing barrier just once. Early on, he even shared time with Sammy Morris, a free agent pickup expected to be a backup, until a chest injury in the sixth game ended Morris' season.
But Maroney still had to wait his turn as a runner. The passing game was just too productive.
He had rushed for a total of just 112 yards in a four-game stretch that brought the Patriots to 13-0. Moss by himself gained more than that as a receiver in two different games in that stretch.
Wait, Maroney kept saying, his day would come.
It did in the next game - and the one after that, and the one after that, and the one after that.
"Sooner than later, the running game had to kick in and when they did turn to it, I knew we had to be prepared," he said after Saturday's win.
In the critical stretch when the Patriots tried to finish off the first 16-0 season in NFL history, Maroney rushed for 104 yards in the 14th game, a career-high 156 in the 15th with gains of 59 and 51 yards, and two touchdowns in the 16th.
Then he piled up 122 on the ground against Jacksonville, nearly twice the total of 66 of Taylor and Jones-Drew. And he did it on 22 carries, his second busiest game of the season.
"For half the year, Tom Brady was doing it all by himself with the receivers," running back Heath Evans said. "And, during the most important time of the year, Maroney stepped up."
His college career at Minnesota prepared Maroney for this.
In 2003 and 2004, he and Marion Barber, now with Dallas, shared time. They both came through, becoming the first teammates in NCAA Division 1-A to each rush for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons.
Then Maroney split time as a rookie with Corey Dillon, who retired after the season. Dillon rushed for 812 yards and Maroney 745. He finished this regular season with 835 yards rushing and six touchdowns, four of them in the last three games.
Before Maroney pounded the Jaguars, the last Patriot to rush for more than 100 yards in a playoff game was Dillon with 144 against Indianapolis on Jan. 16, 2005. Curtis Martin holds the team playoff record with 166 against Pittsburgh on Jan. 5, 1997.
"We have been here and worked hard, and knew we would finally get a chance to show the world that we do have some type of running game," he said.
Now he must wait for a chance to do it again on Sunday.
"Laurence, thank God, lost it there for a little bit," Brady said. "But he's obviously found his way."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved