When Stevan Ridley busted out for 125 yards in a Week 1 win in Tennessee, the Patriots long-standing running back problem seemed to be solved. Now, there appears to be another legitimate back in New England’s stable.
Brandon Bolden, an undrafted rookie out of Mississippi, exploded onto the scene with an aggressive running style and quick bursts on the outside that paved the way for a breakout performance that shouldn’t soon be forgotten.
A rededication to the running game from offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels resulted in Bolden carrying the ball 16 times for a career and Patriots’ season-high 137 yards and a touchdown. Bolden and Ridley combined to shred the Bills’ defense on Sunday to the tune of 244 yards, and with that performance the duo broke into the franchise’s history books.
With 107 yards and a pair of touchdowns of his own, Ridley paired with Bolden to become the Patriots first tandem to rush for over 100 yards in a game since 1980. The performance deserved more than just a spot in the record books, though. Bolden’s emergence as another option out of the backfield may have finally provided the Patriots with the running game they’ve sought for so long.
After scoring a touchdown against the Ravens last week, Bolden was thought to be another big, physical option down near the goal line. But while Bolden has the prototypical size — 5-foot-11 and 220 pounds — and strength expected from a goal line back in the NFL, Sunday’s outburst just proves that he’s capable of offering much more.
Bolden, much like fellow Ole Miss alum and former Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, doesn’t have the top-end speed expected from a feature back, but it’s what he does offer that makes him so useful.
The aggressive style Bolden features is something desired by many teams, especially those looking to assert dominance in the passing game. His ability to plow through the tackles and shed blocks, given his big frame, allow him to extend plays and forces defenses to keep more guys inside the box. Ball security, something the Patriots struggled with in Buffalo, is also a great feature that Bolden encompasses and makes him an even more reliable option.
Bolden clearly deserves some kudos for his tremendous effort in the Patriots comeback blowout. So much so that even Bill Belichick threw out some praise, albeit small, for the talented tailback after the Patriots 52-28 win.
“Brandon ran well, no doubt about it,” Belichick said, visibly pleased with the effort.
The subtle appreciation handed down from Belichick doesn’t mean that Bolden will see 10-plus carries each week or even at any point again this season. But in slicing through the Bills’ defense on Sunday, Bolden established his place as a reliable back. But he may have also carved out a more permanent role in the Patriots ground game going forward.