Ball Security? Time for Ridley to think defensively


So I’m in Walmart last evening – against my will and better judgement – and I needed to get down the Baking aisle.

I had been to every corner of the store, munching on Oreos, more or less successfully avoiding any tight spaces that would give rise to both my blood pressure and anxiety, but now I had everything else I came here for, plus a few things I hadn’t, and so it couldn’t be avoided any longer.

I’d had a fine run at it, but the chocolate chips were almost exactly halfway up the aisle, which was literally crawling with holiday shoppers.

Dec 16, 2012; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) hands of the ball to running back Stevan Ridley (22) against the San Francisco 49ers during the first quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

I targeted a stout young boy who looked like he knew his way around a cookie and was about to bribe him with a few double stuffed oreos to retrieve the morsels for me when suddenly an aggressive woman of about 50 shoved her way between me and the lad with a look of arrogant determination.

“I’m following her”, I said to no one in particular, and leveled my cart right on her backside.

She was decisive, cutting to the left for marshmallows, then to the right for baking powder, the doting trolls clogging the aisle instinctively moving aside when they saw her bearing down on them…I glided right in to the chocolate chips, grabbed them in one motion, trying to stay in her wake…dropping them, but gaining control of the bag quickly…

For a moment, I was Stevan Ridley, following my blockers through this sea of humanity, blasting through the initial resistence, planting firmly as we got to the second level.  Seeing daylight to the left, I burst from behind my blocker, raising my hand, giving a would-be tackler a stiff arm before breaking the plane.

I emerged from the aisle to the side of the woman, feeling like she had just led me to paydirt.  I looked back to see the carnage, the hole closed slowly as these zombie like creatures resumed their mindless search for sugar and brains, a trail of chocolate chips marking my journey from the spot of my fumble…I  would have spiked the bag in celebration were it not for the fact that most of the chips were now being ground into the tile by the heavy-footed locals…

…The old lady that I stiff-armed was the only one still watching me, so I dismissed my notion of giving my blocker the obligatory “well done” butt slap, and scurried off to the chip aisle awaiting the P.A. announcement that a clean up was needed in the Baking goods aisle…

Stevan Ridley is a splendid running back – one look at the stat sheet will tell you that.  He will fight for the extra yard, leaving everything on the field…including the football on occasion, which, despite his impressive numbers, is giving fits to the Patriots coaching staff.

Ridley had a rough game against the 49ers – so rough in fact that he watched the better part of it from the sidelines, paying the price for putting Bill Belichick’s football on the ground.  Same with Shane Vereen.  Danny Woodhead finished up the game for the Patriots in fine style, scoring twice and delivering thunderous Gronk-esque spikes in celebration.

Woodhead’s style isn’t much different from Ridley’s, with one glaring exception:  he runs through the tackler…and let’s not forget the astonishing spiking ability, throws his entire body into it, just like it’s drawn up.  I’ll bet that if were to spike a bag of chocolate chips, he would get some impressive distance when the chips exploded from the bag

Ridley absorbs the contact instead of initiating it – and anyone who knows anything about physics knows that the person absorbing it is the one that’s gonna feel it…and it will eventually lead to having the ball jarred loose.

A few weeks back I had the opportunity to interview Jerod Mayo, and one of the questions that I brought up was why he’s never perstered Belichick into giving him an opportunity to get a few offensive snaps, given his success as a running back in high school – and his answer was all telling:

“Naw, I gave that up a long time ago” he laughed “It doesn’t hurt as much when you’re the one delivering the blow.”

Defensive players are taught to drive through the ball carrier when making the tackle, dictating with brute force where the play ends.  Perhaps it’s time for Ridley to become a little more defensive minded…because if he doesn’t, it’s the kind of thing that could threaten to put Ridley’s otherwise fine 1000 yard season, not to mention his starting job, in jeopardy.

Because Bill Belichick doesn’t look at stats like you or I, he sees things more in black and white.

Ridley’s 1,105 yards on 252 carries and an average yards per carry of 4.4 are truly impressive, particularly given New England propensity for throwing the ball – but what Belichick sees is that Ridley has put the ball on the ground four times – and you don’t put Belichick’s football on the ground.

It’s tough to imagine that Belichick will bench Ridley, but it’s assured that he will see his touches decline.  Woodhead is as clutch a third down back as you could want and Brandon Boldin is a load in short yardage situations, and both punish the tackler by running through him…

So, Stevan, become defensive minded, attack the would-be tackler and drive through his body – all the while keeping in mind that you have the Patriots hopes and dreams of a physical running game in your hands.  You have what it takes to be a great running back, you have the determination and the drive.  Learn from your teammates – don’t stop running hard.  In fact, run harder and make sure the defender knows that he just took a shot, softens them up a bit, don’t you know, and it puts the ball more securely in your control…

And come on up to Maine and go shopping with me at Walmart.  We’ll both get behind an aggressive shopper and study her, learn from her style, maybe practice some spin moves and certainly stiff arm a few folks…then go get some chocolate chips and make some of my famous Karma Kookies.

If I can hang on to the bag.