Stevan Ridley carried the ball on each of the first six Patriots' running plays on Sunday against the Jaguars, quieting those who were predicting a reduced workload due to his recent ball security issues.
Ridley had fumbled three times in the previous two games. Last season, he was benched in the playoffs after fumbling in the divisional round blowout of the Denver Broncos. This year, however, Ridley is the featured back and driving force behind a resurgent Patriots rushing attack, which currently ranks 8th in the NFL in yards per game. Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden have both shown that they can be good backs but at this point they are really a change of pace from Ridley, who has a unique combination of power and speed. Danny Woodhead has carved out a niche for himself as a reliable third down back and receiving threat out of the backfield, but he is not the type of player to be the feature back on this high powered offense.
Ridley has run for 1,189 yards this season including 88 yards on 18 carries this past Sunday.
"That's what we had to focus on, because of the couple turnovers we had, starting with myself," Ridley said after spending a week of practice focused on ball security. "We focused on that, and that's what we have to do. When we carry the ball, we have to carry it back to our offense. We can't turn it over, we can't have fumbles."
Ridley will need to hold onto the ball if the Patriots are to make a deep postseason run. Practice has seemed to have paid off thus far as he had no problems with ball security this past Sunday.
"Stevan has carried the ball a lot of times for us this year and done a lot of good things for us and really helped our offense move the football and score points," offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said of Ridley. "When you look at issues, whether it be ball security or pass protection or the ability to run the ball outside or whatever the issue may be, there is always a reason. Our goal it to try to give the player enough resources and enough instruction that he might be able to effectively improve that situation, that issue, if it exists."
Ridley has been a huge boost to a resurgent Patriots running game this season and they will need him to be effective to make a deep postseason run.Tags: Brandon Bolden, Danny Woodhead, Football, New England, New England Patriots, NFL, rushing attack, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley