|Patriots looking forward to Sunday’s home opener vs. Raiders||09.20.14 at 8:00 am ET|
FOXBORO — It’s no secret the Patriots are one of the most dominant teams in the NFL at home.
Since 2002 New England is 81-15 in the regular season at Gillette Stadium — the best winning percentage (.844) by almost 100 points to the second best team in the NFL — the Ravens at .755. Home openers have also gone in the Patriots favor as since the stadium opened in 2002, they are 11-1 in home openers, winning by an average of 9.2 points.
To no one’s surprise, the team is looking forward to Sunday’s first game of the season at Gillette Stadium when it hosts the Raiders.
“Honestly, personally I can’t wait,” defensive end Chandler Jones said. “I really can’t wait to run out of the helmet here at Gillette Stadium — just the feeling that we have playing here at Gillette Stadium is a feeling you can’t explain and I can’t wait for it.”
Sunday’s game will be a special one for running back Stevan Ridley whose dad’s favorite team was the Raiders and he has 14 family members coming to town for the game.
“My mom’s very excited about it — the family is going to be here so it’s going to be an exciting atmosphere coming back to Foxboro and getting in the home stadium,” said Ridley. “We’re looking forward to it not being on the road — coming back to New England and playing Patriots football.”
Ridley had a strong game the last time the Patriots faced the Raiders in 2011 when he ran for 97 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries in a 31-19 Patriots victory. The game was played at the O.co Coliseum.
After playing the first two games on the road this season, the team is ready to open its home portion of the schedule.
“It’s good when you’re at home playing in front of your own fans,” Ridley said. “We go to away stadiums and our fans are way up top in the nosebleeds somewhere and you don’t really hear them. There is nothing like being here. We know they love the Patriots here. We love playing at home. It’s going to be exciting and we just have to start a streak here this year. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done in the past, let’s get off to 1-0 right here at home.”
Oakland comes into Sunday’s game 0-2 — traveling back to the East Coast for a second time in three weeks before going to London after the game for their Week 4 matchup with Miami. Even with the struggles Oakland has had, being outscored 49-28 in the two games, the Patriots are focused on opening the year with a win at home.
“That will be a great statement to get in a win in front of our home crowd and that is our goal, just to get a win,” Jones said.
|Stevan Ridley sees ‘drastic’ improvement in Patriots rushing attack||09.17.14 at 4:54 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Sometimes one week can make all the difference in the world.
In Week 1 against the Dolphins the Patriots ran for just 89 yards, only 28 of them coming in the second half as they ran just seven running plays the final 30 minutes of the game. Week 2 against the Vikings was a different story as the team ran for 150 total yards, 96 of them coming in the second half.
Stevan Ridley led the way, rushing for 101 yards on 21 carries.
“We’ve improved each week. I think Miami to Minnesota, I think [the offense and offensive line] made a drastic improvement,” Ridley said. “We all keep leaning on each other and relying on each other. I think we’re going to be OK towards the end of the year.”
On a personal level, the key for Ridley was staying patient as he only rushed for 29 yards in the first half, but was able to pick it up in the second half against a tired and demoralized Minnesota defense.
“Every back goes out there and wants to take it the distance, but there are going to be times that it’s going to be just two yards, three yards and you just have to keep plugging,” said Ridley. “You have stay disciplined as a runner and keep your legs moving and falling forward. That’s what you have to do to get the tough yardage, eventually they are going to break and you’ll get some big runs.”
Overall, the Patriots rank 16th in the NFL in rushing, this after being ranked 21st following Week 1. Like Ridley said, the Patriots are focused on getting better each week, wanting to reach its peak once December and the end of the season hits.
Ridley isn’t the only back who has seen time as Shane Vereen has been a force both in the running game and catching passes out of the backfield. Vereen has 76 yards on 13 carries and has caught six passes for 35 yards. Running the ball effectively and with consistency goes a long way in the Patriots offense as the team is 38-1 when a player runs for 100 yards or more under Bill Belichick.
“It’s only Week 3. The first week we struggled and the second week we got it going. There’s a lot of football left to be played, so I don’t want to jump in front of myself. From week-to-week I see improvement and that’s all we can ask for, especially with the group of guys that we have up there. There are some new faces – I think we all know that – but, like I said we’re just going in week in and week out showing what we can do,” Ridley said. “Eventually, these upcoming weeks, hopefully we will have a balanced attack going into every game and that’s what makes us hard [to stop]. The key word is hard work around here and that’s what we do.”
|Stevan Ridley on fumbling issues: ‘This year is a new year, it’s a new opportunity’||09.03.14 at 5:15 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The last time the Patriots went down to Miami in Week 15 of last season, running back Stevan Ridley barely played, as he finished with just eight carries for 34 yards partly due to his fumbling issues throughout the year.
With the start of a new season and a clean slate, Ridley is putting last year in the rear-view mirror and looking forward to a better trip to South Florida this time around for Sunday’s season-opener.
“I’ve learned a lot over the four years,” said Ridley. “What I have learned is you have to leave the past in the past. This year is a new year. It’s a new opportunity and I always said a little bit of adversity never hurts anybody.”
Adversity is nothing new for Ridley as he has fumbled eight times in the past two seasons – four in each year — tying him for the fifth-most in the entire NFL among running backs last season.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick rarely has any patience for putting the ball on the ground, sometimes taking the running back completely out of the game after he fumbled and even went as far as listing him as a healthy inactive for Week 13 in Houston last season.
“What I strive to do every day is try to be the best running back that I can be to help us be productive, to help us win games,” Ridley said. “That doesn’t mean I’m going to be perfect and that I’m going to be out there making a bunch of errors, but it does mean that I have every day to come out here and try to be better than I was the day before and that’s all that I can do.”
Quarterback Tom Brady, who has handed the ball off to Ridley for all three of his years in the league, still has a great deal of confidence in him despite his reoccurring fumbling issues and is looking forward to watching him hopefully bounce back in 2014.
|Stevan Ridley on fumble against Eagles: ‘I hated it, it was a sick feeling for a second’||08.18.14 at 7:28 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Stevan Ridley is sick of fumbling and tired of answering all the questions that seemingly come with it.
After having fumbling issues last season — to the point where he was even a healthy scratch for Week 13 against the Texans — Ridley once again put the ball on the ground in last Friday’s second preseason game against the Eagles.
Although the Patriots recovered the fumble and on a second-look it appeared he may have been down first, the fact of the matter is he fumbled once again.
“It’s too close to call, man. Either way, I need to avoid those plays in general,” Ridley said. “There’s nothing really else to be said about it. I hated it. It was a sick feeling for a second. We looked at the play, it is what it is, but either way one out is too many. But I’m not going to harp on that. I’m going to learn from it.”
The running back didn’t play a snap following the fumble — something all too familiar for the fourth-year running back out of LSU.
“When I go back and watch the play, and the ball is out again, Week 2, it kind of sucks,” Ridley said. “But it’s football, man, and I can’t get down about it. I can’t harp about it. That’s why you have preseason. I’m just going to keep on working and keep on pushing.”
Ridley was having a good game until the fumble as he finished with 45 yards on nine carries.
“I had a nice little workload early on, and I think the coaches saw what they wanted to see,” he said. “For me, I came on out when they told me to come out. Like I said, we’re moving on. This week’s Carolina. There wasn’t too much said about it — just get back to work, learn from your mistakes just like everybody else and keep on pushing.”
Even with the frustration of fumbling on a seemingly regular basis, Ridley is always there to answer the questions from reporters and understands where the questions are coming from.
|Bill Belichick on Stevan Ridley: ‘We never want the ball out’||08.17.14 at 12:50 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Here we go again.
It’s only the preseason but the question of Stevan Ridley and ball security has arisen once more.
On his seventh carry Friday night against the Eagles, Ridley ran off to his right, behind the right guard and just as he appeared to be falling routinely to the ground at the Philadelphia 10, the ball came out.
It was recovered by fullback James Develin so the Patriots managed to salvage the red zone chance and finished it off when Jimmy Garoppolo found Brandon LaFell in the back of the end zone.
There was some question as to whether it was a fumble at all as Ridley was close to having his backside on the turf when the ball came out when safety Earl Wolff stripped it out. But to head coach Bill Belichick, who has been down this road for the last three seasons with Ridley, whether it was down by contact was not the issue.
“We always talk about ball security, taking care of the ball. There’s nothing that correlates more to winning and losing than turnovers, so that’s always a high priority for us,” Belichick said in his Saturday conference call. “We never want the ball out and on the other side of the ball defensively and in the kicking game, we always try to get it out. Sometimes when we get the ball out, we don’t recover it or sometimes when we get it out they blow it dead but we always want to try to do that. The same goes true for the offensive side of the ball.”
Ridley came out of the game on what appeared to be his normal rotation but when he began to sprint on the field before the LaFell touchdown, he was called back and Brandon Bolden took his place. Bolden had two runs and rookie James White had another as Ridley was given time to consider his indiscretion.
“We don’t want plays where they end up with the ball, whether they’re ruled in our favor or not,” Belichick said. “Guys that have an interception in their hands but drop it or plays where the ball gets away from us, whether we recover it or it goes out of bounds or they recover it, those are all plays we’re trying to avoid, obviously. They do matter. So do the ones that, same thing on defense, the plays that we get out, we don’t get them all but the more we get them out, the more we’ll get, so they are significant.”
Ridley’s trouble with holding onto the ball is well-chronicled in New England. He has lost four fumbles in each of the last two seasons and was benched for the AFC championship and Super Bowl in his rookie season when he lost a fumble in the regular season finale and a playoff win over the Texans in Jan. 2012. Still, Ridley remains one of the most productive runners in the Patriots backfield, averaging 4.5 yards and rushing for 20 touchdowns in his first three seasons in New England.
|Sebastian Vollmer taking it ‘step by step’ in his return to the field||06.12.14 at 10:01 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Sebastian Vollmer is ready to put 2013 behind him. As a matter of fact, he admitted Thursday he’d rather not think about how it ended at all.
Who could blame him?
Anyone watching the Patriots and Dolphins on Oct. 27, 2013 on TV certainly will never forget how his season ended. The Patriots right tackle was moving outside to run block for Stevan Ridley when Dolphins nose tackle Randy Starks rolled up on his right leg. Sideline microphones picked up the yells of the 6-foot-8, 320-pound beast of a lineman who had just suffered a gruesome broken leg.
During Thursday’s OTAs, Vollmer returned and was moving freely with the first team offensive line, looking like a man ready to put the past in the past and leave it there. He even joked about being yelled at by coaches, a sign that he was indeed back and ready to put on the pads next week in mini-camp.
Whether he’ll be ready to take on the full load of a full training camp and be ready for the season opener against Starks and the Dolphins in Miami on Sept. 7 is another matter. And he’s more than ready to accept the reality of that deliberate pace.
“Let’s take it day by day,” Vollmer cautioned. “You work on some stuff every day in the training room, the rehab room, you know, on the field. You’re always working on something so you’re never there.
“Anytime you get hurt it’s not a good thing. You don’t really know what’s happening to yourself and take it step by step. You take it inside, talk to doctors and do what’s necessary and just work your way. It’s a strain. Every day you do rehab, you get better, you get stronger and all that stuff, looking forward. I’m back out here now and it’s a good moment for me.”
Vollmer felt from the moment he began to recover from surgery and begin his rehab program that he would be back on the field this summer, all along never doubting himself.
“No. I don’t think you should have that,” Vollmer said of skepticism and worry. “I trust our medical staff and rehab guys and we know we’re in good hands. You just have to do what they tell you to do. You have to work hard and I think that’s kind of what it comes down to.”
Former Giants running back and current CBS Sports Radio host Tiki Barber joined Middays with MFB on Thursday to discuss the fumbling issues of Stevan Ridley and Jets rookie Calvin Pryor‘s comments about the Patriots. To listen to the interview, go the MFB audio on demand page.
Ridley has been one of the most productive running backs in the league over the last two seasons, rushing for 2,036 yards and 19 touchdowns in 30 games. However, Ridley has been plagued with fumbling issues, losing the ball eight times over the same 30-game stretch.
Barber stated that working on mechanics and strategy over the offseason will help Ridley solve the problem that put him in Bill Belichick‘s doghouse for most of last year.
“This is what worked for me: It was showing a concerted effort in the offseason to correct whatever the problem is, and his problem is unfortunately the same one that I had — an inconsistency of holding onto the ball,” Barber said, adding: “The way you get out of people’s doghouses is to show a concerted effort to fixing the problem and then executing it day in and day out when people aren’t watching.
“The only way that the fans and media are going to care and let this go is if when the games start happening, when preseasons starts happening, it doesn’t become an issue at all.”
Barber continued: “I’ve always said this about sports. It’s train, train, train … so that when you get into the moment, you don’t have to think about it and you can just trust. So for Stevan and for any guys that are having issues with ball security, it’s about mechanically changing your mind in the offseason when there’s no pressure to do it, because when you try to do it at the moment of game day … there’s no chance. You have to train yourself when there is no pressure, so that when there is pressure, you don’t think about it.”
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