By: Ian Logue
As everyone knows, it’s always easier to remember the bad things.
That seems to be the case with runningback Stevan Ridley, who watched his stellar rookie season get completely erased in the minds of his critics after two late season fumbles.
The former LSU standout found himself sidelined after he had two back-to-back games where he fumbled the football, putting a damper on what to that point had been an impressive rookie campaign.
During the regular season he was one of the most productive players on a per-carry basis, and even more so during the 3rd and 4th quarters. Ridley gained nearly the same amount of yardage as BenJarvus Green-Ellis during the final two quarters of play over the course of last season, and also did it on nearly half the amount of carries.
It’s tough to call Ridley “fumble prone” after looking back at what he did last season. (FILE:USPresswire)
The rookie carried 22 times for 140 yards (6.4 avg) in the 3rd and 28 carries for 150 yards in the 4th, and also registered just two carries with negative gains over that span. Green-Ellis meanwhile carried 46 times for 176 yards (3.8 avg) in the 3rd quarter and 53 carries for 185 yards (3.5 avg) in the 4th.
As for being “fumble prone”, it’s hard to necessarily agree with that assessment. Ridley never fumbled until the final game of last season, which was a new year’s day match-up against Buffalo at Gillette Stadium. The play came in the 3rd quarter on what according to our own stats database was his 84th carry of the year, ending a streak of 83 straight carries without a fumble.
On the play the ball went out of bounds, so it wasn’t considered a turnover.
His second fumble didn’t even come on a carry, it came on a reception in the 3rd quarter in the Divisional round against Denver. At the time the Patriots were up 42-7 but the fumble happened at the Broncos’ 19 yard line and Denver recovered. Losing the ball in the red area is something that drives Bill Belichick crazy and sadly it ended up being the last time he touched the football for the rest of the year. Earlier in that game he carried 4 times for gains of 3, 1, and 6 respectfully, but unfortunately the NFL is a “what have you done for me lately” league, and Ridley had to spend the offseason likely replaying that moment over and over in his head.
Earlier in the week he told ESPN that he’s been focused on making sure this season works out a little differently.
“This year I’m going to go and do the best that I can to keep the ball high and tight,” Ridley said. “I know that if I can keep the ball in my hands, I’m going to be on the field. So my work is cut out for me.”
He’s been an explosive player and Thursday night rushed 8 times for 40 yards, keeping to a healthy 5 yard per carry average – which is similar to the average he finished with during his rookie season (5.1 yds). Last year he also finished with 7 of the 10 longest runs the team had during the 2012 regular season, which up until those final two games were what he was known for.
For now he’s in a battle for the role of the lead runningback, and up to this point looks like he’s back ready to pick up where he left off last season. The goal now is to just put last year behind him and focus on making sure he’s a little more careful with the football.
“The ball can’t be on the ground,” Ridley told ESPN. “That’s no secret. Fumbles will have you on the bench.”