The New England Patriots vastly exceeded expectations this season. Most, including myself, thought they would sneak into the playoffs only to be destroyed by whatever team was left to face them. Well, it turns out that didn’t happen mostly because the team that was waiting for them in the postseason was the Indianapolis Colts, and they couldn’t stop the Patriots and their running backs.
Those running backs, a collection of complementary parts, were perhaps the most consistently reliable position group on the team. What made them so good was that when one individual inevitably had a bad stretch there was someone else ready to step up and carry the load.
Stevan Ridley came into the season as the consensus top back, but his fumble issues near the end of the regular season opened the door for LeGarrette Blount to gain some footing in December and break out in the playoff win.
Another impressive sight was Shane Vereen finally starting to live up to his potential. After being hampered by injuries for his first few seasons, Vereen finally strung together several strong games and finished the year with 47 receptions for three touchdowns.
If that wasn’t enough, even practice-squad regular Brandon Bolden tossed in 271 yards on the ground and three touchdowns.
Much of that impressive production has to be due to the offensive line and their impressive run-blocking performance this year, but the backs deserve their fair share of the praise as well. They performed as well as can be expected as a group. While no one back had a tremendous year, as a group they were among the best in the league.
That type of backfield by committee is something the Patriots have been doing for years now, and the rest of the league has been catching on recently.
Next season will bring much of the same in the New England backfield. Ridley and Vereen will both definitely be back, and Bolden will likely be re-signed to a value deal as well. Blount is the one player who might get overpaid to play somewhere else, but if that happens the Patriots will move on just as they always have.
The running backs were one of the best groups on the team last year, and they look to come back just as strong in 2014.