FOXBOROUGH — Things keep looking up for Stevan Ridley and the Patriots’ ground game.
Ridley had his third 100-yard rushing game of the season — on 28 carries for a career-best 151 yards — and scored a touchdown in the Patriots’ 31-21 victory over the Broncos at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.
“Last week, we emphasized the run, this week we emphasized the run and the offensive line’s getting a good push up front, so we’re just hitting the holes that are there,” Ridley said. “And trying to get downhill and make yards fast.”
Ridley rushed for more than 100 yards for the third time in five weeks. It’s the first time a Patriots running back has had back-to-back 100-yard games since Laurence Maroney during the 2007 season.
But it wasn’t a perfect game for Ridley. His fourth-quarter fumble gave Peyton Manning and the Broncos a chance to cut into a 10-point deficit before the Patriots defense forced a turnover of its own to seal the win.
Ridley has been trying to shake the perception that he has trouble holding onto the football. In his rookie season last year, he had a couple of late-season fumbles in consecutive games, including in the playoff win over Denver.
“It didn’t end the way I wanted it to, but besides that, I’m just thankful to be out there,” Ridley said. “Some things are going in my favor and some things aren’t. For me, I just need to come back in here on Monday and get back to work. But we’re going to continue to work hard, that’s the only way they do it around here.”
Ridley was concentrating on holding on to the football right before he turned it over.
“It was late in the game, you’ve got to close it out, you’ve got to run the football and I told myself before the play [that] I had to hold on to the football,” he said. “Like I said, they’re getting paid to play, too. You can’t make any excuses, I messed up. I’m sure coach is going to have something to say about it, but like I said there’s always another day tomorrow. So I’ll be back to work and working the ball security high and tight. And that’s all I can do.”
The Patriots ground game, which has produced consecutive 200-yard games, has been a source of pride for the running backs.
“It’s awesome, man,” Ridley said. “It takes a lot of pressure off [Tom] Brady. 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, 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.”
The Patriots’ 251 rushing yards are the most for the team since 2008 and their two-game total of 498 rushing yards is the most since 1978, the last time New England had back-to-back 200-yard rushing games.