FOXBOROUGH — It was a podium game for Shane Vereen.
The second-year Patriots running back didn’t see the field in the first half of Thursday’s game as fellow second-year back Stevan Ridley took carries with the first team. Vereen wasn’t even the second running back the Patriots called on, as rookie Brandon Bolden entered the game before him. But Vereen found himself on the podium after the game by virtue of his 64 yards on 11 carries in the third quarter. Vereen was in on every snap on a 14-play, 97-yard drive to start the third that ended in a touchdown from Brian Hoyer to Britt Davis.
“It felt good to be out there running,” said Vereen. “The O-line did a nice job. I can’t hardly take the credit.”
Vereen hasn’t had much of a chance to be out there running. He got just 15 carries last season with Benjarvus Green-Ellis, Ridley, and Danny Woodhead getting most of the carries. With Green-Ellis gone, there’s a need for Vereen to step up. Woodhead fills a third-down role, but the identity of the team’s true feature back (as much as the Patriots define one) is still up in the air.
“I think offensively we need to produce,” said Vereen. “Running the ball is a big part of the offense. We need to run the ball well to be successful.”
Vereen said he didn’t view New England’s other running backs as rivals. He said Woodhead is a veteran leader who has a positive influence on the group.
“I think more than trying to one-up each other we try to learn from each other,” said Vereen. “We learn not to make the same mistake and vice versa. As far as competitive, we go out there and try to do the best for the team to try to make the running game a lot better.”
It was only one drive against second and third string players, but Vereen knows the importance of these reps. He said he doesn’t want to screw it up.
“You’re only given so many opportunities to get that confidence,” he said. “I still have a ton to work on, but for that little drive, it feels good to be able to succeed.”
— Patrick Chung and the Patriots defense held the Saints to six points, an accomplishment for a much-maligned unit. Chung had an interception but also contributed to bad coverage on a long third-down conversion for New Orleans. He said he wouldn’t get too high off one game.
“It’s just practice for the regular season,” said Chung. “You’ve still got to make plays. … We can’t get a chip off one preseason game. We have to build, to get better. We’ll get that chip after a while.”
— Davis, who scored the only touchdown of the game, left with an apparent arm injury in the fourth quarter.