As great as the New England Patriots win over the Denver Broncos was, it is time to move on and begin to focus our attention on the Houston Texans. This contest isn’t exactly as interesting as “Peyton vs. Brady” was, but it will provide the Pats with a solid challenge, and it is a game that New England cannot afford to overlook.
The running back situation in Foxboro has been one of the most talked about subjects over the last few days. The Patriots have a stable of talented running backs, but because of some fumbling issues, Belichick and company now have some decisions to make, regarding who plays, and who does not. I personally feel that Stevan Ridley is the guy that needs to be getting most of the carries, but he also happens to be the most fumble-prone back on the team. Ridley has fumbled in two straight games, with his latest one causing him to be benched for the rest of the game. LeGarrette Blount is another guy that fumbled versus Denver, although his wasn’t really his fault, given the nature of the hit that was put on him. That left Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden to man the running back duties, and while they performed admirably, the Pats will need Ridley and Blount in there if they wish to advance deep into the playoffs.
This week’s matchup gives them the perfect opportunity to see who will be most effective in the backfield, as despite boasting the top defense in the league, the Texans are 22nd in defending the run. I think that Tom Brady and company will have some success through the air, even though they will be going up against the best pass defense in football. New England simply has too many weapons for Houston to deal with, which will result in a fine day in that department. However the Pats have to show that they can run the football against a team like this, because if they can’t, there is no way they will be able to do it against better teams, come playoff time. Whoever Belichick decides to go with at the running back position, we will all be expecting success from this back, making the coach’s decision, a big one.
Shane Vereen is locked in as the third down, “passing back”. He is easily the most explosive back New England has, and his ability to split out wide and beat a linebacker one on one is pretty impressive. The dilemma the Patriots face, is who to play on the downs where you need to grind out some yardage on the ground. Ridley is definitely the most competent, but is having him on the field worth risking losing the football? In my opinion, yes, it is, but that will be left up to Bill Belichick, as he is faced with one of the most important coaching decisions of this 2013 season.
Part of the reason I believe that Ridley is worth the risk, is because of how damn talented the dude is. His running ability is often overshadowed by his fumbling, but when you really look at him play, you will come away extremely impressed. He runs with power, he has great vision, and his speed and quickness are good for a guy with his size. All of this adds up to some solid production, and although many won’t acknowledge it, Ridley is responsible for quite a few Patriots wins over the last two years. Time after time the New England offense would be revitalized by Ridley breaking off a few big runs, which resulted in the passing game getting opened up, along with bigger holes for Ridley to scamper through. A lot of football “experts” are adamant in saying that Ridley shouldn’t play, but the fact of that matter is, New England needs him in there to be at their best.