The New England Patriots had a strong running game Week 3 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Pats had 156 total rush yards on 33 rushes to help balance the offense and open up the passing game for Tom Brady. Usually when the Patriots have good rushing numbers, Stevan Ridley leads the way, but that was not the case in this game. Shane Vereen had a great Week 1 after Ridley was benched, but after he went down with injury, Ridley and the team struggled to get anything going against the New York Jets Week 2. Ridley again struggled a bit Week 3, but the other backs came up big to give the Patriots an overall good rushing performance.
Brandon Bolden, who has been banged up, technically got the “start” for the Pats. I use that term loosely; Bolden may have been out there for the first offensive snaps, but the RB was a revolving door for most of the game with Ridley, Bolden and LeGarrette Blount all getting opportunities. Brandon Bolden was the biggest weapon out of the backfield with his versatility and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Bolden would finish the game with 100 total yards including 53 rush yards on only three carries. Bolden is the only RB right now who is a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield until Vereen comes back. Bolden would have five catches on the day and was the best player in the Patriot backfield against the Bucs.
Blount’s performance will be overlooked due to the fact that he got most of his carries in garbage time at the end of the game. With that said, he still averaged 4.6 yards per carry and finished with a respectable 65 yards on a team high 14 carries. The biggest topic of discussion in all of this, though, are the continued struggles of Stevan Ridley. Ridley broke off one good run for nine yards, but struggled to hit holes and get into the second tier of the defense. After having a great year last year and high expectations this year, Ridley has arguably been the biggest disappointment on offense this season. He has not shown any reason to keep riding him, especially when the guys behind him are starting to perform.
Moving forward we could see a RB by committee in New England. The Patriots will most likely play their matchups and keep giving the hot hand the ball. If Brandon Bolden continues to be effective rushing the ball and is contributing in the pass game, Ridley could quickly see his touches decrease considering he does not catch the ball well and is kind of a one-dimensional back. It probably won’t get any better for Ridley once Shane Vereen comes back, who looks to be the most talented out of all the running backs in New England. Vereen is not set to return until Week 11, which means Ridley has plenty of time to regain his starting job, but if he does not play better we could be seeing a lot more of LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden moving forward.