In the Red Zone

Ridley Running into Stardom

The last time the New England Patriots had a running back this good they had clock killin’ Corey Dillon or BenJarvis Green-Ellis.

While he isn’t as bruising as Dillon or as steady and sure handed as the Lawfirm now they have Stevan Ridley.

Ridley, a 2011 3rd round pick out of LSU, has really grown in his second season.  The only disconcerting part is that after not having fumbled in the first three weeks he’s put the ball on the turf twice in the last two games, with one this past Sunday being recovered by opposition.  His previous fumble took a fortunate roll in Buffalo and went out of bounds.

The fumble Sunday could have been costly with the team winning by ten points and the Broncos with plenty of time left to chew further into the lead.  But luckily for Ridley Denver’s Willis McGahee had a bigger fumble and New England was able to run the clock out on a win.

Fumbles aside, this kid is good.  I watched him at LSU and he was an outstanding college running back competing against SEC defenses week in and week out.

He is showing it now in the NFL too.  Week in, week out he is getting better, running for tough yards and running where there appears to be no hole.  You just see his silver helmet scooting through the line among the giants as he chews up yards and time and prolongs another New England drive.

In five weeks he has run for 490 yards on 102 carries for a 4.8 yards per carry average and he is on pace to be the teams first 1,000 yard rusher since Green-Ellis who was the first since Dillon.

Don’t be too hard on him for those fumbles, the kid looked devastated on Sunday and then relieved, and you know he is working hard to overcome those.  I for one am really thrilled with how well he has run against some good defenses.  He already has three one hundred-yard games this year with 125 against Tennessee, 106 against Buffalo and a career high 151 against Denver.

Hopefully for Ridley and the Patriots the best is yet to come.

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News and Notes

Former Patriots RB Kevin Faulk has announced his retirement from the NFL and will hold a press conference at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday. (Boston Herald)

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick conducted his day after media briefing. (

QB Tom Brady had his weekly Patriots Monday radio chat on Monday morning. (WEEI)

Offensive snaps by skill players vs. Broncos (ESPN Boston)

Defensive snaps played vs. Denver (ESPN Boston)

Observations on the up-tempo approach; first half and second half (ESPN Boston)

The Patriots defense did its part against Manning (ESPN Boston)

Welker back on top (Boston Herald)

Defense making big plays (Boston Herald)

Best and Worst of Broncos at Patriots (Boston Herald)

Five takeaways from Patriots-Broncos (Boston Globe)

Rob Ninkovich gets back to high motor style of play (Boston Globe)

The Patriots are 68-14 at home in the regular season since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002.

Since 1999 the Patriots have the best record in the NFL at 150-63.

Since 2003 New England is 33-6 in October games.

The Patriots are 3-2 vs. Denver at Gillette Stadium.

New England has won 4 of the last 5 meetings including 1 playoff game.

Bill Belichick’s 195 wins are good for 8th all-time.  He is now 195-106 including playoffs in his career.

Tom Brady is 4-6 vs. the Broncos including 1-1 in the playoffs.  Overall including playoffs he is 143-43.

Denver head coach John Fox is 1-5 vs. New England including postseason (0-2).  He is 0-3 with Denver (0-1 in playoffs) and 1-2 with Carolina (0-1 in Super Bowl).

Peyton Manning is 7-13 against the Patriots, including playoffs (1-2).  He is 2-9 vs. the Patriots on the road.

WR Wes Welker now has catches in 106 consecutive games including playoffs, 89 as a Patriot.  The last time Welker did not have a catch in a game was 12/24/05 as a Dolphin.

Rookie CB Alfonzo Dennard made his Patriots debut on Sunday after being inactive with injuries the first four weeks.  DE Justin Francis also dressed for the first time but did not play.

The Patriots defense held the Broncos to just 70 yards rushing on 20 carries.  The longest carry they gave up was 11 yards.

Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas had a big game with 188 receiving yards on 9 catches but he had a costly fumble on Denver’s first possession.

Punters for both teams had one punt of at least 50 yards.

Both Chris Gronkowski (Denver) and Rob Gronkowski (New England) had a kick off return for 0 yards.

LB Jerod Mayo led the team in tackles on Sunday he had 13 (solo).

Mayo and DE Rob Ninkovich each had a QB sack. DE Chandler Jones led the team with 2 QB hits.

Ninkovich forced 2 Denver fumbles 1 by Manning and 1 by Willis McGahee, while CB Sterling Moore had a forced fumble on Thomas.

DT Vince Wilfork, DL Jermaine Cunningham and Moore each had a fumble recovery.

For the second week in a row the Patriots lost a fumble after going three weeks without losing one.

The Patriots sacked Denver QB Peyton Manning 2 times, while allowing Brady to be sacked 4 times.

New England’s defense had 2 tackles for loss for 5 yards.

The Patriots offense churned out 35 first downs (18 rushing, 16 passing and 1 by penalty) while the defense allowed 22 first downs by the Broncos (5 rushing, 16 passing and 1 by penalty).

New England set a team record with 35 first downs in one game.

New England’s turnover differential is PLUS 10. The defense has recovered 8 fumble and has 6 INT.  The offense has given away 3 fumbles and has 1 INT.

New England was 11 for 17 (65%) on third down conversions and 0 for 1 (0%) on 4th down attempts.  The Broncos were 7 for 13 (54%) on 3rd down conversions and 1 for 2 (50%) on 4th down attempts.

The Patriots were 4 for 5 in the red zone.  They had 4 TDs and 1 FG.  Denver was 3 for 4 (75%) in the red zone.  They had 3 TDs and lost 1 fumble.

Ed. Note: In game recap I identified a Broncos player as David Dreissen.  The correct identification is Joel Dreessen.

Next Week

The Patriots travel to Seattle to play the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.  Kickoff is at 4 p.m. on CBS.

Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveMichaelsII