Ridley sparks Patriots' rushing attack at perfect time

Posted Oct. 04, 2011 @ 1:25 a.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

The best offense continues to have the worst defense, but if teams can't stop the Patriots, as in the 2010 regular season, it won't matter.

New England gave up 504 yards of offense to the Raiders in their 31-19 win. Though most of those yards came on the Raiders' final drive, when Oakland went 99 yards downfield. Bill Belichick will be the first to tell you that the score is the statistic that matters.

Week Five will be a test for the Patriots' offense, as Rex Ryan's Jets had Tom Brady's number in the playoffs last season. That is exactly why the Patriots picked a perfect week to establish an effective running attack and can bring a more balanced offense to the rivalry game if the Jets' secondary takes away the pass.

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The Raiders did rush for 160 yards, but it's the Patriots' rushing display that was noteworthy. It had struggled against the Bills, who had the league's worst run defense last season. The one bright spot against the Bills, rookie Stevan Ridley, broke out against the Raiders.

Ridley impressed in the preseason, but no one expected the LSU alum to make an impact this early in the regular season. He had 10 rushes for 97 yards and a 33-yard touchdown, running through huge holes on the right side, thanks to blocks from fellow rookie ORT Nate Solder, TE Rob Gronkowski and ORG Brian Waters on the second level.

It wasn't just Ridley, as "The Law Firm" came to life, as well. BenJarvus Green-Ellis had 75 yards rushing on 16 carries and a touchdown. As a team, the Patriots rushed for 183 yards on 30 carries (6.1 yards per carry).

With Gronkowski, who is a very good run blocker, needed in the receiving game due to Aaron Hernandez's injury, the Patriots got creative with OT Thomas Welch, using him as an extra blocker on run plays. On short-yardage plays, LB Dane Fletcher has been the lead blocker, as the team doesn't have a fullback or H-back.

The one mystery is Danny Woodhead, who had just two carries on Sunday and no targets as a receiver. Ridley may take some touches away from Woodhead as he continues to be effective, but Belichick has no problem using an array of backs. If Woodhead has the hot hand, he will get the ball, as Ridley did on Sunday.

Wes Welker had another big game, and Brady had no trouble finding him, but the reigning MVP didn't have to do too much, thanks to his backs churning out yards and using the clock. Brady needs as many weapons and outlets as possible when facing the Jets' defense. Even though the Gang Green has struggled early on, it always brings its best against New England, and Rex will have his players ready. It will be key for Brady to feel comfortable feeding the rock to Green-Ellis, Ridley and Woodhead to keep the Jets off-balance, and the win over the Raiders gave the ground game the confidence it needed.

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