For most of the season, things have looked pretty easy for Patriots running back  Stevan Ridley.

Ridley has been one of New England’s most consistent ball carriers for much of the season, showing great vision and the ability to find space and get up field.   He was averaging 4.6 yards per carry coming into Sunday’s game against Miami and was about to battle the NFL’s 7th ranked rush defense.


Stevan Ridley had to fight hard during the Patriots win over Miami. (FILE:USPresswire)

It was pretty obvious that Bill Belichick knew that running the football wasn’t going to be easy.  They heavily favored throwing the football, with the Patriots finishing the entire first half calling just a handful of running plays.  They threw the football 26 times over that span, while Ridley carried the football just four times, while Danny Woodhead had also had just 3 carries.

The early results running the ball weren’t exactly successful.   Three of Ridley’s four carries went for just 2-yards (although one was a 2-yard touchdown) while the other was a 2-yard loss.  Other than the touchdown run the normally dynamic running back looked stymied while New England struggled putting any semblance of a running game together.

In the second half Ridley started having more success and it seemed as though the Patriots made some adjustments.  He carried five times in the third quarter with rushes of 7, 2, 3, 5, and 4 yards respectfully and it appeared they were finally wearing down Miami’s defense.

By the fourth quarter Ridley was off and running, and he carried a season high 10 times in the final 15 minutes for 46 yards and was a key part of the Patriots 16 play 77-yard drive where they ran out the clock after keeping the ball away from Maimi for 7:18. He also converted 3 of the team’s 6 first downs on that drive, which kept rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill on the sideline and allowed New England to finally kill the clock and deliver the knockout blow to Miami after Stephen Gostkowksi hit a 20-yard field goal to put the Patriots up by 10.

At that point the game was more or less out of reach and it was a terrific job by Ridley and the offense, who for much of the year had been criticized for their inability to run out the clock and put teams away.

Head coach Bill Belichick said after the game that they didn’t really do anything differently in the running game in the second half and said the players simply performed better.

“No, we didn’t make any big adjustments, I just think we executed a little bit better,” said Belichick.  ”We didn’t really get a whole lot of running plays called, so we ended up calling more of them.”

By the end of the game Ridley had carried 19 times for 71 yards, giving him 1,010 on the season.  He’s the first running back since BenJarvus Green-Ellis to reach that milestone, but he’s also just the 4th Patriots running back to reach that total in a mere 12 games since Corey Dillon, Curtis Martin, and Jim Nance.

Both Nance and Martin accomplished it over that same span twice, hopefully giving Ridley something to shoot for next season.

After the game Ridley told the Boston Herald that he’s thankful for what he’s been able to accomplish so far but doesn’t plan on letting up.

“A thousand yards is a great accomplishment,” Ridley said.“I’m very thankful. I’ve worked hard, and the offensive line is working hard. I’d say in a million years, I never thought I’d be here, but I’m here now and dreams can be accomplished. I still have a lot of work to do, and I’m going to keep grinding it out. I’m happy for now. A thousand yards, I’m pretty impressed, I have to say.”