Patriots

Ridley ready to carry the load

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Ridley ready to carry the load

FOXBORO - "Nobody wants to see the ball on the ground less than me," said Stevan Ridley on Sunday afternoon.

The second-year back was referring, of course, to the tail end of 2011 when - at the end of a promising rookie season - he dropped the football twice. One went out of bounds. One was recovered by the defense. They came in the final regular-season game at Buffalo and in the AFC Divisional Playoff game against Denver.

And the region gasped like he'd mooned the Queen.

It was a surprise that the historically surehanded Ridley put the ball on the ground. It will be a bigger surprise if it becomes a habit.

The kid is diligent as his early returns in camp have shown. Ridley's easily outclassed his draft peer from 2011, Shane Vereen through four public workouts. His blitz pickup form leaves something to be desired, but his decisiveness making cuts, ability to run in traffic then bounce out and accelerate and run with power have all been impressive.

"I'm not even close (to where I need to be)," said Ridley, who came to the Patriots from LSU. "I still have work to do."

With BenJarvus Green-Ellis gone, Joseph Addai released and Vereen starting slowly, the image of Ridley as the lead back is becoming easier to imagine.

Ridley admitted it's occurred to him as well.

"I think that's every little kid's dream," he said when asked if he hoped to be the starting back this year. "It's a joint and a team effort. We have a group of running backs that can all play that all do great things differently, who all do them well. I'm just in there trying to pull my load."

Ridley's running skills have put him in a good position so far. His ability as a receiver is more of an untapped resource. But with the Patriots working a lot of screen passes into their practice time this week, we're seeing Ridley's strength in that regard.

He's a naturally smooth catcher who gets his head around quick and gets downfield without a lot of dancing. And that's important with screens.

To see three big linemen in front of you trying to get downfield on some DBs, it's a chance to make a big play so for me, it's a present almost when you have lead blockers going downfield like that," Ridley explained. "I look forward to it when it does open up. If we get it down and get it like the coaches want us to run it, I think we'll run that play a good bit."

The screen is a counter punch to an overaggressive pass rush, something plenty of defenses are forced to employ since Tom Brady with time to survey means death. To slow down the pass rush, being able to flip a pass over the top of onrushing linemen and in front of dropping DBs, is a sensible play.

Receiving was not a strong suit of Green-Ellis. And Danny Woodhead is a difficult target to locate with his size. Ridley needs to be able to carry it off.

EX-PATS PODCAST: Why does it seem Patriots secondary is playing better without Gilmore?

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EX-PATS PODCAST: Why does it seem Patriots secondary is playing better without Gilmore?

On this episode of The Ex-Pats Podcast...

0:10 - Mike Giardi and Dan Koppen give their takeaways from the Patriots win over the Falcons including the defense coming up strong against Atlanta but New England still taking too many penalties.

2:00 - Why it felt like this game meant more to the Patriots, their sense of excitement after the win, and building chemistry off a good victory.

6:20 - Falcons losing their identity without Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator and their bad play calling and decisions on 4th downs.

10:00 -  A discussion about Matt Ryan not making the throws he needed against the Patriots and if he has falling off the MVP caliber-type player he was last season.

14:00 - How and why the Patriots secondary seems to be playing better without Stephon Gilmore and why Malcolm Butler has been able to turn up his play as of late.

Mother Nature gets between Belichick and his Patriots-Falcons film study

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Mother Nature gets between Belichick and his Patriots-Falcons film study

If your team makes a goal-line stop in the fourth quarter, but you can't see it on the All-22 tape, did it even happen? 

Bill Belichick said the fog that hovered above the Gillette Stadium turf on Sunday night didn't impact the play on the field, but it did make its imprint on the game in other ways. First of all, spotters and coaches up at the press level had some difficulty relaying information to coaches on the sidelines. Video on the hand-held tablets for sideline use -- as well as the old-school still-frame pictures Belichick prefers -- was also obstructed. 

Then on Monday, as coaches tried to digest the film, the fog butted in on the process again. 

"It affected us a lot this morning because it’s hard to see the game," Belichick said during a conference call. "The fourth quarter is – I don’t know – pretty close to a white-out on the sideline film. The sideline cameras are at the top of the stadium, so that’s a tough shot.

"The end zone cameras are a little bit lower and they get a little tighter shot, so the picture is a little bit clearer. But, on that shot, a lot of times you’re not able to see all the guys on the perimeter. It’s kind of an in-line shot.

"Yeah, the first half, start of the third quarter, it’s all right. As they get into the middle of the third quarter and on, for those of us with aging eyes, it’s a little strained to see it, and then there’s a point where you can’t really see it at all, especially from the sideline. So, yeah, it affected us."

Belichick re-iterated that the fog didn't do much to the product on the field (other than maybe making life difficult for kick and punt-returners), refuting Julio Jones' claim from late Sunday night. When it came to digesting the film, though, that was another story.

"It was more, I’d say, just tougher for, whether it be our video camera or the fans that were sitting in the upper deck. It’s just there was too much interference there," Belichick said. "It was probably hard to see the game. I know when we tried to look at the pictures in between series – you know, I don’t look at the tablets, so I won’t get into that – but the pictures, it was kind of the same thing. It was hard to really be able to make out exactly what you were seeing."