It was a down year throughout the entire NFL for running backs and the running game, but overall, the New England Patriots finished 2013 ranked 9th in rushing offense at 129.1 yards/game. With such a high performance on paper, one would think the Patriots would have at least one running back who separated himself from the rest of the group. But that was not the case. New England rode a stable of just four running backs this past season, and among LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden, Steven Ridley and Shane Vereen, none of them broke the top 20 in the league in rushing or started more than seven games.
So, who was New England’s best back in 2013? Let’s first cross off Bolden, the second-year man out of Ole Miss. He accounted for 271 yards on 55 carries and a respectable 21 catches, yet his crowning achievement was being the only one in the group without a dose of fumble-itis. From here, it becomes a toss-up. After a stellar sophomore season in 2012, Ridley was poised to be a consistent 1,000 rusher, but instead, his fumbling ways costed him touches and eventually opportunities to dress throughout the 16 game slate.
Ridley’s 773 rushing yards (21st in the NFL) was just three feet ahead of Blount’s 772, and both shared a team-high seven touchdowns. However, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneeer really bolstered his year with his Patriots-record 331 all-purpose yards in the season finale against the Buffalo Bills, although he was virtually useless as a receiving running back, with just two catches for 38 yards.
On the contrary, the season opener against Buffalo was where Vereen played just about the entire game with a broken wrist despite seven catches for 58 yards and 101 yards on the ground. He lost eight games thanks to the prognosis, yet when Vereen returned in Week 10 at the Carolina Panthers, he did not miss a beat, hauling in eight Tom Brady passes for 65 yards.
Without Vereen on the gridiron, the backfield passing game hit rock-bottom and was a blip on the offensive gameplan. But it flourished with Vereen, and the third-year man had his best year even though he was limited to half the games. Despite a lowly 208 rushing yards, he was still the top Patriots running back in 2013, thanks mostly to his 47 catches (3rd on the team behind Julian Edelman‘s 105 and Danny Amendola‘s 54) and four total touchdowns.