After finally establishing a running game over the first
five weeks of the season, for the first time in what seemed like years, the
Patriots appeared to lose their way. But Stevan Ridley made
sure that fleeting transition in philosophy was indeed short-lived.
After throwing the ball a combined 100 times against the
Seahawks (58) and Jets (42) over the past two weeks and struggling
to find a rhythm on offense in either game, the Patriots decided it might be
best to return to their early-season strategy.
The Patriots, who had handed the ball off on just 36 percent
of their offensive snaps against Seattle and New York, returned to
force-feeding their stable of running backs on Sunday. Ridley was the workhorse
once again, and he didn't disappoint in his return to center stage.
Ridley, who struggled to find any open space against either
the Seahawks or Jets gaining just 99 yards on 32 carries, reenergized the
Patriots rushing attack against the Rams. The young tailback put on a display of
strength and speed as he churned out 127 yards on 15 carries and spurred the
offense to a 45-7 rout at Wembley Stadium in London.
Ridley's success didn't exactly have a
contagious effect on any of his stablemates, although both Shane Vereen and
Danny Woodhead made a noticeable impact on the outcome. Rather Ridley's
powerful running forced the Rams to adjust defensively, opening up gaping holes
in the passing game for Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski to take full advantage.
Even after such a tremendous performance out of the
backfield, Ridley wouldn't take sole credit for the outburst, though, instead
pointing to the big bruisers up front as those truly responsible.
"The offensive line figured it out up front, and any
time you start a game, there is a defensive game plan and that's what we do a
great job of — making the proper adjustments," Ridley said after the game. "[Coaches]
normally hit it on the head after they see what the defense is throwing at
them, to see how we need to get the plays blocked so we can get downhill and
run the football. It was a phenomenal job by the five up front."
After a few rough weeks up front, many tailbacks would begin
blaming their teammates for the struggles — ahem, Chris Johnson — but Ridley
continued to believe in his line's ability to correct the problems.
"You just have to keep running hard and believing in
your teammates that they're going to figure it out," he said. "It's
awesome to run behind that offensive line."
Even with an offensive line hampered by bumps, bruises and
missing arguably it's most important piece in guard Logan Mankins — who missed
his second straight and third game this season — the Patriots were able to keep
a clean sheet.
Between the lack of pressure on Brady, who wasn't sacked for
the first time all year, and Ridley's explosion, they're certainly a group who
deserve some applause. And the offensive line will get the credit they deserve
for such a tremendous showing, but the Patriots still ran through Ridley's
legs. And it should continue to.
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