By: Ian Logue
Following Sunday night’s fumble against the Broncos, running back Stevan Ridley finds himself in a tough position heading into this week’s match-up against the Houston Texans.
His first quarter fumble forced the Patriots to have to play from behind early on, thanks to the fact the Broncos defense returned it 60-yards for the touchdown to give them an early 7-0 lead. It was an early back-breaker because it came after New England was having success moving the football and getting into a rhythm, and it’s something that goes against a point of emphasis from head coach Bill Belichick, who stresses ball security over everything else.
Belichick talked about that during his conference call on Monday, and said that everyone, not just Ridley, needs to do a better job.
“Ball security is the paramount issue for your football team every week, our football team every week,” said Belichick. “We fumbled the ball, whatever it was, six times last night. We can’t go on like that. We just can’t. There were multiple situations and multiple things involved and it hurt us the week before in Carolina. We’re just not going to be able to overcome turning the ball over, however you turn it over. Whether it’s fumbles or interceptions or muffed punts or tipped interceptions, whatever it is, fumbled snaps – we just can’t overcome those, not for very long. You might get it for awhile but in the end, it’s just too big an advantage go give to the other team. We have to take better care of the ball.
“Obviously they had a hard time taking care of it last night too. There were multiple turnovers throughout the game. Certainly the conditions were part of it but in general we have to do a better job of coaching and playing and securing the ball. That includes everybody, everybody who touches it. It’s not limited to one guy, it’s anybody who touches the ball. That’s the center, the quarterback, the running backs, the receivers, the returners, the holders, the kickers, the snappers – everybody. Everybody that touches the ball, we have to take better care of it.”
There were plenty of people on social media calling for Ridley’s release following his miscue, with the running back fumbling for the second straight week in a key situation. The issue stands out in everyone’s minds because it happened in such dramatic fashion, and with the turnover resulting in points in such big game, the frustration with the veteran certainly boiled over and now leaves his status uncertain heading into this weekend.
One choice may be to sit him this week as he tries to continue working out his issues, which would shift more of the carries over to LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden. The two handled the load against the Broncos, although Blount committed a turnover himself and isn’t exactly perfect in that department. There are some who want to simply outright release him, but you don’t get rid of a guy who is one-year removed from a 1200+ yard season. You also don’t cut a player who is one of the most explosive running backs they’ve ever had who clearly has the ability if he can fix this problem.
The fumble he committed last week in Carolina came on a backside pursuit where he had the ball knocked out from behind, which was a tough play and likely the reason why Belichick went back to him. The one he made Sunday night was a result of a spin move where when he came around Wesley Woodyard was right there to meet him and put his helmet right on the football and sent it flying.
That may be one of the first things he may want to think about, as former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi said during his weekly chat on Monday that he loved it when running backs would spin, because it gave him time to close in.
“I’ve never been a fan of a running back that relied heavily on the spin move,” said Bruschi. “Playing against that type of RB, I always enjoyed that. There was the possibility of a point when a RB had his back to the pursuing defense, you felt like you might get a good shot. Once a RB starts a spin, he has to eventually come around. As a defender, you can make up about 3 yards while an offensive player spins if you’re pursuing full speed.
“There is a point where when you complete your spin, your body has to regroup. And there is a possibility that the pressure on the ball has lessened. Defenders know this and that’s when you can get a big hit that might force a fumble.”
Looking at the league totals Ridley is tied with seven other NFL running backs who lead the league with three fumbles this season. Overall in terms of the ratio of fumbles per carry, he’s currently the highest with 3 out of 270, with Arizona’s Rashard Mendenhall coming in next having committed 3 of his own on 311 carries.
Interestingly enough, three of the seven are among some of the league’s elite with Adrian Peterson, Reggie Bush, and Marshawn Lynch joining Ridley in this category. While the names are prestigious, the stat they all share isn’t. But it makes you realize that even the best players aren’t exactly perfect.
In the end it’s tough not to root for him to turn it around, especially since Ridley was a big reason why the Patriots got so close to another Super Bowl berth last season. In order to get there this year they’re likely going to need him down the road when it counts, and we know the type of player he can be when he is able to hold onto the football. While there are some who are ready to give up on him, it definitely seems a little premature given the potential he’s shown. Former running back Kevin Faulk had a reputation early in his career after committing some fumbles of his own, but he eventually worked them out and went on to be a good player in this offense. Obviously he’s a different player, but the premise is still the same.
That’s something Ridley is aware of, and he plans on seeking out Faulk to try and figure out how to correct his issues.
“I’m gonna have to talk to [Kevin] Faulk to see what he did,” Ridley told CSNNE.com. “For me, it will be something I have to change. I won’t be settled until I get it right.
You have to appreciate his attitude and the fact he took responsibility and didn’t make any excuses. Hopefully in the end he’ll be able to figure out, because it would be tough to see him ultimately end up becoming a sure-handed player elsewhere down the road if they give up on him too soon.
BELICHICK’S WIND DECISION STEMMED FROM 30 YEARS AGO:
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick admitted on Monday that a decision in the 1986 NFC Championship game by then Giants head coach Bill Parcells was one that stood out to him when it came to factoring the wind into a coaching decision.
In that game against the Redskins Belichick said Parcells opted to take the wind to start the contest, and it ended up being a key decision.
“I go back to the 1986 NFC Championship Game, where Coach [Bill] Parcells against the Redskins took the wind to start the game and we went ahead 17-0 and that was the final score of the game,” explained Belichick. “I really think that that decision was a big decision in that game and a big decision ultimately in that team’s championship.
“I learned a lot from that. I’m not saying that that’s always the right decision. Clearly each situation is different but there’s a place for it. I think there’s a time when it’s right. I just thought that last night was the right time for us. But that decision by Bill in that game, it just was a good lesson for me that it’s such a huge factor in the game, if the conditions are what they are. It can be such a big factor in the game that it’s worth making that decision if you feel it’s that significant. He did it in – there are not many games bigger than an NFC Championship game – he did it in that game and I think that was probably the difference in the game.”
VOLIN OFFERS A REMINDER TO PATRIOTS FANS:
Sunday night’s win against the Broncos guaranteed that the Patriots will finish .500 or better for the 13th straight season, which is obviously pretty amazing considering that no other team in the league can make that claim. Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, who previously had been the beat writer down in Miami covering the Dolphins for eight seasons for the Palm Beach Post, knows first hand what it’s like to cover a struggling Dolphins franchise that wasn’t at the same level.
He has an article this morning looking at how different things are here compared to the rest of the other cities, and how New England is able to remain a consistent winner.
“Hopefully Patriots fans realize that this is not how it works in the other 31 NFL cities,” writes Volin. “In Miami and Washington and Dallas and San Diego and many points in between, you watch the game waiting for your team’s inevitable doom. The thrills and last-minute ecstasy are occasional, and usually don’t last very long.”
JONES AND THE PATRIOTS ALREADY MOVING ON TO HOUSTON:
Following an emotional win against the Broncos Sunday night, after sleeping through most of Monday morning Chandler Jones was back at the stadium yesterday afternoon despite being given two straight days off by Bill Belichick. Jones told Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald that the preparation for the Texans is already underway, and that he celebrated the win over Denver in his sleep.
It was an emotional win, but it’s over,” Jones told Howe. “I would say take some time off and celebrate, but I celebrated it last night in my dreams when I was asleep. That’s about it, and we’re moving on to Houston.”
DEL RIO ADMITS FUMBLES HAVE BEEN ‘KRYPTONITE’ FOR THE BRONCOS:
On the ride home following the 34-31 loss to the Patriots on Sunday night, interim head coach Jack Del Rio said after watching a movie on the way back to Denver, the word “krypotonite” is a good word to use to describe the fumble problems that Denver has had this season.
“Kryptonite, it’s been kryptonite so far,” said Del Rio. “I watched ‘Man of Steel’ on the ride home [from New England]. That’s an issue and we’ve got to correct it. We’ve got to be better there. That’s the one area that regardless of how good you are, that’s the kind of thing that can really cripple you and we’ve got to protect the football better. We are preaching it.”
The Broncos currently have 16 fumbles this season, and following the loss they lead the league overall with four more than the New York Giants, who have fumbled it away 12 times. The Patriots have eight on the season.
ON TO THIS MORNING’S LINKS:
Nothing about these Patriots should surprise – Ben Volin – Volin has a good read this morning with his thoughts on why the Patriots are able to be so clutch.
Patriots games that went down to the wire this season – The Globe has a list of the final plays from this season in each of the games where it came down to the final play.
Pats-Broncos: Five takeaways from the game – Jeff Howe – Howe has his five takeaways from Sunday night’s game, and feels Tom Brady and New England’s offense is battle tested after staging a comeback with temperatures in the single digits.
Patriots Report Card: Simply remarkable – Ron Borges – Borges has his take on Sunday night’s game, and gives everyone but the running backs and the defensive line solid grades.
Patriots ‘D’ puts Broncos plan on ice – Jeff Howe – Howe writes that the Patriots game plan worked out really well as they forced Peyton Manning to have to think his way through each progression Sunday night.
Patriots start thinking of Texans – Jeff Howe – Howe files his notebook this morning, which leads off with the fact the team now has to move on and start getting ready for Houston.
Getting to know the Texans – Field Yates – Yates looks at the Patriots upcoming opponent as they get set to head to Houston to battle the Texans this weekend.
Chat with Tedy Bruschi – Bruschi held his weekly chat yesterday and offered up some interesting insight on a variety of topics, including his thoughts on Stevan Ridley’s fumbling issues.
Resilient Patriots savor comeback win – Rich Garven – Garven has an article on what he feels was an emotional, exhausting and in the end, exhilarating evening of football by New England.