Stevan Ridley: Patriots Strive for “Balanced Attack”


The Patriots’ offense has long been synonymous with a full-blast, no-huddle aerial shellacking. That all changed in 2013 after repeated injuries to mismatch machine Rob Gronkowski, the departures of Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd in free agency, a steep learning curve for rookies like Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins, and, of course, the release of he who shall not be named. The second half of that season saw Belichick tossing the previous offensive playbook aside like napkins after a plate of barbecue ribs and transmogrify the Patriots offense into a run-centric offense with a side of screen passes and dink-and-dunk routes designed to maximize the talents of LeGarrette Blount, Stevan Ridley, and backfield Swiss Army Knife Shane Vereen.

Ridley caught quite the reputation as a fumbling pariah, especially after being benched in a few games after coughing up the rock, but he’s back in the mix this year and shared a few thoughts about running a balanced offense with ESPN this week.

“I just know that when we have a more balanced attack that we are a better offense and that’s what we are striving for this season,” said Ridley. “But, it’s still early in the season. We don’t have all the kinks worked out right now.” “We just have guys that are new in positions and guys that haven’t played a lot. We are just trying to figure it out as a team, but I think it is a group effort and we are working together and I think that they have improved week to week. From Miami to Minnesota, I think they have made a drastic improvement.”

It’d be hard to argue with that assessment, as the Patriots went from being dominated by Miami’s defensive unit to running the table in Minneapolis. Ridley went on to talk about why a heavy dose of running the ball can break things open as games go on.

“It’s not always going to be there early in a game, eventually a defense is going to wear down and the creases will come. So, you can’t really try to go for the home runs early, you have to keep grinding it between the tackles and finding the tough yardage – giving [the offensive line] some time to figure out the defense that they are playing.” “If that’s what you have to do is take the tough yardage, then eventually you will break it and get some big runs. But until then, be consistent. Be a smart player. And keep the ball out there. The offense will keep moving the chains and keep rolling.”

And based on the matchups the Patriots will face this year, with defenses as varied as the stout front of the New York Jets and the apparently Swiss cheese run defense of the Chicago Bears, the game plan for attacking the defense will almost never be the same each week.

“Some days it is going to be through the air. Some days it is going to be on the ground, but it is the defense’s job to figure us out. But as an offense we have to do what we do and as a unit we are going to keep marching the ball down the field game in and game out — that’s the goal.”

Nobody’s going to come out and say it, but with the Oakland Raiders looking more and more like a solid contender for next year’s first overall draft pick, this weekend is a huge opportunity for the Patriots to quiet the doubters and let the offense make a statement that they still belong in the top tier of the AFC.