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Stevan Ridley: Nate Solder playing ‘well over his head’ in leading Patriots run to daylight

10.03.11 at 10:21 pm ET
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FOXBORO — He may not have realized the irony of his comments but Stevan Ridley may have hit the nail right on the head Monday when he pointed to one of the big reasons for the Patriots break out ground game on Sunday in a 31-19 win over the Raiders in Oakland. And with all the talk about Darren McFadden coming into the game as the NFL’s leading rusher, it was Ridley who led all rushers with 97 yards, 22 more than “Run DMC.”

“It’s a great feeling,” said Ridley, who ran for 97 yards on 10 carries. “I can’t lie about that. The offensive line is doing some great things up front so it makes my job really easy, just go out there and run the football and pull my load like the coaches ask me to.”

Then Ridley was asked about the big holes opened up by the right side of the offensive line, led by rookie Nate Solder and veteran Brian Waters.

“They’re all on the same page,” Ridley said. “Nate’s a rookie and Nate’s playing well over his head right now. He’s playing great for us. We’re still learning. We’re only three games in. It seems like the offense line has been together for a good while with the green grass I’m seeing when I’m coming through the line. I really can’t complain or have anything bad to say them working up front as an offense.”

Ridley’s praise of the offensive line is genuine since they are the ones opening the big holes for him to run through, even if they are the most penalized position group on the team.

Ridley’s breakout threat, which he showed on a 33-yard TD run off the right side, was a big reason the Patriots ran as much as they threw on Sunday for the first time this season. If only by a small amount, Ridley and the backs were able to lighten the load on Tom Brady, who threw for a rather pedestrian 226 yards on 16-of-30 passing.

“Tom always does a great job in the passing game and our receivers are blocking downfield as well as making catches,” Ridley said. ‘Really, our offense is complimenting each other so we’re still just growing as a unit and trying to better each other.

“I really wouldn’t say I pick up the load for Tom because Tom has a big load on his shoulders so I’m just going out there and doing what the coaches ask me to do. I’m just going out there and trying not to play over my head, and when they call my number, make a play, a positive play. I’m just a rookie right now, and I’m still just learning every game, taking it one step at a time. They’re doing a great job of making my job easier so I just have to continue to do what I’m doing.”

What made Sunday all the more remarkable for the Patriots running backs was the fact they lost one of their best midway through when Danny Woodhead limped off with an ankle injury late in the second quarter.

“We have to be able to step up and back up each other,” Ridley said. “That’s one thing we try to do in that [meeting] room is every back has to be able to pull each other’s load when one us goes down. That’s part of football and part of being a running back. We have to be able to go in there and be tough in a time of need.”

BenJarvus Green-Ellis added 75 yards on 16 carries.

“We have a lot of a playmakers on our offense, from Ridley to myself, Danny, all the receivers and tight ends so we know we have a whole lot of guys at skills positions helping us win games,” Green-Ellis said.

And like Ridley, Green-Ellis found the end zone on the ground.

“It just means we were out there battling and attacking them,” Green-Ellis said. “Everyone was working hard from the offensive linemen to the receivers downfield and also the tight ends, like Rob. It was a good all-around team effort.”

Read More: BenJarvus Green Ellis, Nate Solder, New England Patriots, nfl
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