FOXBOROUGH — Two more touchdowns, tough yards when it mattered, even a 13-yard run when the Patriots were backed up at their 1-yard line.
Stevan Ridley didn’t fill up the stat sheet, but on a cold, raw, windy day at Gillette Stadium, he held on to the football, followed his blockers, and led a solid ground game for the Patriots in Sunday’s 28-0 win over the Dolphins.
Ridley finished with 74 yards on 20 carries, and the Patriots rushed for 167. Ridley’s average (3.7) might not impress, but he pushed his season total to 1,263 yards, just the fifth time a Patriot has reached 1,200 yards. Corey Dillon was the last to do it, gaining a franchise-record 1,635 yards in 2004. Jim Nance (1,458 yards in 1966), Craig James (1,227 in 1985), and Curtis Martin (1,487 in 1995) are also part of the 1,200-yard club.
Ridley declined interview requests after the game, but center Ryan Wendell spoke up for him, when asked how important Ridley has been.
“As an offensive lineman, it’s our job to create running lanes. But it’s great when you have a running back that can get yards when you don’t do a very good job of creating running lanes for him,” Wendell said. “There were a couple plays out there where we might not have done the best job blocking, and Ridley got more yards than were there, and that’s pretty encouraging for an offensive line.”
Gil Santos and Gino Cappelletti knew they would be recognized before Sunday’s game for their 28 seasons together in the radio booth. They also knew they’d get a chance to be partners again, with Cappelletti coming out of retirement and calling the start of the game with Santos, who is retiring after this season.
What neither knew is that they’ll be inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame in 2013. Patriots owner Robert Kraft informed the crowd that Santos and Cappelletti will be enshrined next year under the contributors category.
“We’ve experienced the highs and lows of the games,” Cappelletti said to the crowd. “It has been a remarkable journey.”
Said Santos, who was shown on the video board wiping tears away after Kraft’s announcement: “Thank you for the wonderful honor. You made me cry, and now I’m blowing my tough-guy image. To the fans, thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Sunday was the 743d Patriots game that Santos has called. Memorable calls were aired over video highlights in the stadium throughout the game, and CBS cut away from Jim Nantz and Phil Simms so viewers got to hear Santos call a first-quarter offensive play for the Patriots.
From the Patriots’ perspective, about the only negative came when defensive end Rob Ninkovich left with a hip injury. He was hurt in the first half, was assisted off the field without putting too much weight on his left leg, and did not return. He was not spotted in the locker room after the game.
Dolphins right tackle Nate Garner was blocking Ninkovich on the play.
“I’m not sure exactly what happened. I was just finishing him to the ground and he came up with his hip hurting, so hopefully he’s all right,” Garner said. “He didn’t scream. He was just like, ‘Ahh, my hip.’ It wasn’t cheap. I don’t want to hurt anyone.”
Tight end Daniel Fells also left the game, with a hand injury, but he returned after halftime.
Cornerback Aqib Talib suffered a hip injury Dec. 10, but he has dressed for the three games since, his role more limited with each week, probably in an attempt to lessen his workload so he can recover. Talib played only eight snaps Dec. 23 in Jacksonville; against the Dolphins, he was active for the game, but did not see the field.
“The guys went out and played a great game, got a big win. Well-needed rest for the whole team [with the bye],” Talib said. “It’s key for us, we’ll definitely use the week. Long season, rough game . . . we all could use that extra week.”
On the up and up
Tom Brady moved into ninth place on the NFL career passing yardage list, overtaking former teammate and Patriots Hall of Famer Drew Bledsoe. In a 14-year career, Bledsoe finished with 44,611 passing yards. Brady came into the game with 44,522 yards, and threw for 284.
Brady also completed 22 passes (on 36 attempts), and is now eighth all time with 3,798 completions. Vinny Testaverde had been eighth with 3,787; next on the list is Bledsoe (3,839).
With his 9-yard scoring pass to Wes Welker in the first quarter, Brady extended his streak of regular-season games with at least one touchdown pass to 48, which broke a tie with Johnny Unitas for second-longest in NFL history. Drew Brees has the record with 54. Continued...