FOXBOROUGH -- Once again, the Patriots were spurred not by the team's All-Pro quarterback, but by their unheralded running backs -- Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden, and Danny Woodhead.
Ridley rushed for a career-high 151 yards on 28 carries and scored a touchdown, Bolden chipped in 54 yards, Woodhead added another 47, and the Patriots totaled 251 yards on the ground in a 31-21 win over the Denver Broncos Sunday night, largely because the Broncos dared them to run the ball.
"We're getting a lot of nickel defense," quarterback Tom Brady said. "So when they put little guys out there, we [have] to take advantage of it."
It was evident that the Broncos were having trouble defending the Patriots' passing game in the first half. Brady connected with Wes Welker for nine completions through two quarters for 71 yards. (Welker finished with 13 catches for 104 yards). The Broncos adjusted, bringing more defensive backs into the game. That's when Ridley and Bolden went wild, allowing the Patriots to control the clock. The Patriots possessed the ball for 35:49.
"I think we're playing definitely a more physical style in controlling the tempo of the game by running the football and we've got to keep doing it," Brady said.
The benefit is obvious of having an offense that can rush for 250-plus yards.
"It's awesome, man. It takes a lot of pressure off [Tom] Brady," said Ridley. "And that's our leader, that's our team. A lot of people key on him and our running back group has to get some pressure off him so he can be the quarterback he can be. If they're sitting back there staring Brady in the face every play, we can't be a one-dimensional offense. So we're taking pride in that and we're thankful for it, but there's a lot of work to be done. We're not satisfied and it's still early in the year. There's a lot of football to be played."