Stevan Ridley led the way for the New England Patriots on Sunday in their 28-10 win
There was nothing complicated about what the Patriots did on offense in Sunday’s 34-13 victory over the Titans in Tennessee. Simple singleback and shotgun formations were mostly used and the most complicated play was a double play-action attempt. Route combinations complimented each other nicely allowing receivers to run free for Tom Brady and the offensive line protected Brady and was physical and strong enough to get movement in the run game.
For running back Stevan Ridley, simpler is better. All day long, the New England Patriots ran simple zone read plays and stretch running plays designed to create small holes for the half-back to get through the line of scrimmage and into the second level. It’s something that the Patriots have tried to do in the past when Josh McDaniels was the offensive coordinator, but the Patriots could not find a halfback to do that. Laurence Maroney danced too much and BenJarvus Green-Ellis didn’t possess the athleticism to burst through in the second level. Neither were guys that could flourish under McDaniels system. The perfect “one-cut” back for the McDaniels offense would have been Corey Dillon, the Patriots halfback who in 2004 rushed for 1600 yards.
When Stevan Ridley began gashing his way through the small holes on the offensive line, it was hard to not think of Corey Dillon. All off-season, we were told that the New England Patriots big back was going to be Shane Vareen, but after numerous injuries, Vareen simply couldn’t stay on the field and Ridley earned the starting job. At least for week one, Ridley proved he belonged in the role rushing for 125 yards on 21 carries and 1 touchdown.
The best part about Ridley’s game was how simple and easy he made it look. There was nothing flashy to his game, he simply took the ball, found the hole between two lineman lowered the shoulder and burst through the hole. There was no crazy juke moves or spin moves or big stiff arms that will get looked up on YouTube 10,000 times in the next 12 hours. Instead, he just chugged away, gained over 5 yards a carry and gave the New England Patriots a balanced offense that they haven’t really had in a long time. It was refreshing knowing that on third and short, the Patriots would not be afraid to simply hand the ball off and be more physical and get the first down.
That fact right there is something to be encouraged about from the Patriots on offense. It wasn’t a flashy day from anyone on the offense, but it was balanced and that was good. The Patriots biggest issue over the past few seasons is there inability to get the tough yards. They have been billed as a “finesse” team and the fans and the team were sick of hearing it. The first game of the 2012 season showed that the Patriots might be ready to get a little bit back to basics, give the ball to the half-back, and let him lead the balanced rushing attack alongside Tom Brady.
If Ridley keeps running like this, it will be a good plan for the Patriots.