Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 11/26/12

NEW ORLEANS - NOVEMBER 30: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots warms ups against the New Orleans Saints at Louisana Superdome on November 30, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
For nearly a decade, the Patriots have been known as a pass-first team on offense. That strategy isn’t going to change anytime soon. But the emergence of a sound and productive running game has at least shifted the offensive method in New England. Stevan Ridley, who ranks third in the AFC with 939 rushing yards, has brought new life to a team that hasn’t produced an effective running game since Corey Dillon‘s last days in New England back in 2006. Ridley’s contributions have proven vital in the emergence of a more balanced offense in New England, and quarterback Tom Brady is just one of the spectators taking notice. “There was a lot competition at running back in the early part of the season, and that whole group has really been a huge strength of our team,” Brady said during his weekly appearance on WEEI’s Dennis and Callahan Morning Show on Monday. The improved ground game has forced defenses to turn at least some of their attention away from Brady, allowing the quarterback more time and freedom to work the ball downfield. And the consequent production has been noticeable. Brady has seen less pressure up front as the season has worn on, even with an injury-stricken offensive line. He’s been as close to perfect over the past five games as any quarterback in football, throwing 14 touchdowns and zero — that’s right, not a one — interception during the stretch. While much of that success can be attributed to Brady’s precision and decision-making, much of it has been a result of the attention the running game demands. Ridley has provided the punch out of the backfield for much of the season. But even as he looks to become just the third Patriots back to reach the 1,000-yard plateau in the past eight seasons, there is more to the resurgent ground-and-pound attack than just Ridley’s contributions. “What our running backs have been able to do both in the pass game and the run game — and not that I didn’t think they could do it, it’s just they didn’t have the opportunity to prove it — and I think what those guys have done, Shane [Vereen], Danny [Woodhead] and Stevan and Brandon Bolden when he’s been in there, they’ve just taken advantage of their opportunities,” Brady added of the unit. “It’s really cool to see as a veteran player when young guys get opportunities and they take advantage of them.” Woodhead and Vereen have both had major impacts with their versatility, both in the run and passing game. Woodhead sparked the offense in a win over the Bills a few weeks ago, and Vereen was the lightning rod for the Patriots’ 49-point outburst against the Jets on Thanksgiving. Bolden, who is serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy, has even been a contributor when on the field with some hard-nosed running and in providing relief for Ridley at times. The entire stable of backs have been productive, which is an uncommon but pleasant sight to see. After such a long wait, the Patriots finally have a productive running game again. And just as Brady said, the contributions have been “huge.” Have a question for Luke Hughes? Send it to him via Twitter at @LukeFHughes or send it here.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Segway cameraman apologizes for running down Usain Bolt

Do the Miami Dolphins finally have a coach worth fighting for?

Drew Storen wants a trade this winter – and he’ll likely get it

Kobe Bryant: ‘I Was An Idiot When I Was A Kid’

Anthony Davis wants gold medal more than NBA MVP

Report: Ronda Rousey’s last fight topped 900,000 PPV buys

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Rose issues statement denying sexual assault allegations

Giants’ rookie Tomlinson blasts a grand slam for first MLB home run

Coughlin treats training camp-weary Giants to ‘spa day’

Wilson: Comments about miracle water ‘perceived wrong’

Ryan Mallett missed Texans practice after oversleeping

Report: Barry Bonds loses collusion case

Nick Mangold assists cops in car burglary crime wave

Heat owner proposing Miami Vice-type uniforms to fans

Robert Griffin III is hilariously injury prone in Madden 16

How much did Felix Hernandez solve?

Winners and losers from the sports world: August edition

Is it safe to say Justin Verlander is officially back?

Melvin Upton Jr. channels Willie Mays with catch

John Elway talks up Colin Kaepernick: ‘I’ve always liked Colin’

Enrique Hernandez falls down trying to hit Aroldis Chapman pitch

How the Chicago Cubs are swinging

WATCH: McElwain surprises six players with scholarships

LeBron James gives shout out to writer recovering from surgery

Frank Gore calls Andrew Luck ‘football God’

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

August's winners and losers in sports

How the Chicago Cubs are swinging

Report: Barry Bonds loses collusion case

Packers smart to sit Rodgers for rest of preseason

Towns is perfect for today's NBA

The Opening Drive: Utah alum Jordan Gross is fed up with the HarBros

Five greatest NBAers without a ring

Exactly how bad is the NL East?

Five potential college football Week 1 shockers

Top 10 storylines for Week 3 of the NFL preseason

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker