The New England Patriots effectively benched starting running back Stevan Ridley after his fumble in the loss to the San Francisc0 49ers, and it couldn’t have worked out better for the Pats. Danny Woodhead came in and produced at a high level with 12 carries for 61 yards, and it was Woodhead who started the big 28-point comeback with a six-yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter. Woodhead finished with 5.1 yards per carry on the day, while Stevan Ridley went for an ineffective 23 yards on nine carries (2.6 YPC in total).
Bill Belichick wasn’t happy with Ridley earlier this season for his fumble troubles, and Ridley did a good job of clamping down on that since the fumble against the Niners. To be fair, he was hit hard on the play, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Ridley had a terrible game. He gets a pass for this since it’s only his second year in the league and he has done a good job overall, but Ridley has been inconsistent and averages just three yards per carry in losses.
Here’s what Belichick had to say about the fumble, “I think there are going to be plays in the game that are… sometimes things happen in football and that’s part of football, whatever they are and the way the ball bounces and so forth and so on. Everything we do, we try to do and coach with the best possible technique, whether it be carrying the ball or any of the other things we do. We try to do everything in the best way, [with] the best technique that we can. Whatever the results of the play are, it still is coached and taught to do it properly, whether that’s blocking technique or tackling technique or coverage technique or throwing technique or anything. If it’s done incorrectly, then we want to try to do it correctly. If it’s done correctly, then it’s reinforced because it’s done correctly and that’s the way we want to do it. That’s how we coach them, on all fundamentals. They’re all important and they all lead to either good things or not so good things. I pretty much put them all in the same category and we try to handle them all the same way – to teach them and coach them the best that we can to get it executed correctly with a high level of consistency.”
That’s a very diplomatic answer from Belichick (as usual), but I bet he was disappointed with Ridley for his performance as a whole. It wasn’t just the fumble that got Ridley demoted for the game, but I know the Patriots are going to keep giving it to him. I mean, he has over 1,100 rushing yards so far this year with an average of 4.4 yards per carry. That’s enough for me to think that he has earned a pass for a bad game here and there.
I feel like at points today I have been too critical of Ridley, because those numbers are mind-boggling for a first-year starter. Ridley has been a huge part of this team so far this year, and I hope the poll results on the sidebar of the Musket Fire site echo that sentiment. 1,105 rushing yards. Man, has this guy been great. But, of course, you can always get better especially with the fundamentals. It seems like Belichick is hinting that these are just growing pains, it is what it is, and that there was bad luck involved (I agree on all points).
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.