The New England Patriots running game was a question heading into the 2012 season after the team lost starter BenJarvus Green-Ellis and replaced him with a pair of 2011 draft picks. Further questions arose when one of those players, Shane Vereen, went down with an injury that has kept him out of action so far this season. But the other, Stevan Ridley, has been stellar the last couple weeks and is proving that he is a key to the Patriots success this season.
While the NFL is unquestionably a passing league, each team needs a solid running game to win games. After adding Brandon Lloyd to a group of receivers that already included Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, and Deion Branch, the Patriots passing game was one of the best in the league. There were many questions in the running game though where the Patriots were depending on two 2011 draft picks in Vereen and Ridley and a 2012 undrafted free agent in Brandon Bolden. Bolden has been a pleasant surprise for the Patriots but Ridley has recently been a star.
The Patriots success so far this season has seemed to go along with Ridley’s success. In week one, Ridley started strong rushing for 125 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown in a Patriots win. But in the following weeks Ridley struggled rushing for just 108 yards over two games with no touchdowns resulting in a pair of losses. He bounced back in Buffalo last week with a 106 yard performances and reaching the end zone twice catapulting the Patriots in their second half comeback against the Bills. He improved on that performance Sunday as he had a record day against the Denver Broncos recording 151 yards with a touchdown in another Patriots win.
The Patriots passing game will still be the primary focus with the targets the team has acquired for Tom Brady. But there’s no understating the importance of Ridley. The running game needs to be solid in order for the passing game to work and the record shows that when Ridley performs to his ability, so do that Patriots. He’ll be tested again next week when the Patriots travel to Seattle to face the Seahawks in one of the toughest places to play in the league. If Ridley can continue this run of outstanding performances, so will the Patriots.