The New England Patriots running game had a successful night against the Cincinnati Bengals defense. Mark Schofield explains who excelled and how it happened.
Facing a stern challenge from the Cincinnati Bengals’ defense, the New England Patriots running game responded in a huge way on Sunday night, churning out 220 yards on the ground. Stevan Ridley notched his second 100-yard game of the season on a night when he and Shane Vereen combined to amass over 200 yards between them. We reviewed the game tape to unlock how the Patriots created opportunities for their running backs against Cincinnati.
Dirty Develin Done Dirt Cheap
A favorite of Inside The Pylon, James Develin turned in a wonderful performance on Sunday night in clearing the way for Ridley. On the second play of the game New England has Tom Brady under center with Develin and Ridley in an i-formation. Cincinnati has their nickel package on the field for this snap. The Patriots run Ridley off of right tackle with the fullback leading the charge:
Develin meets middle linebacker Rey Maualuga in the hole and stands up the big linebacker. This allows Ridley to cut left behind his blocker and gain 9 yards on the play. The collision between fullback and linebacker is a violent one, and Develin needs to fix his chin strap after the play.
Nose tackle Domata Peko also found himself in the fullback’s path on a play late in the 2nd quarter. Vereen and Develin are in the backfield in an offset i-formation. The Bengals have their nickel personnel on the field for this 2nd and 10 play:
Brady shifts Develin prior to the snap and, as the play begins, the fullback executes a stunning trap block on the massive nose tackle. The big back gets Peko with a clean block, turning the defender’s shoulders perpendicular to the line of scrimmage and clearing a path for Vereen to gain 11 yards and earn a first down.
Eager to share the love, Develin takes another linebacker, Vincent Rey, for a ride before halftime. Following the two-minute warning, the Patriots again have Vereen and Develin in the backfield in an offset i-formation. The Cincinnati nickel package is on the field looking to defend the pass. New England again runs the ball using Develin on a trap block. The fullback looks to block the nose tackle, but Peko has vacated the hole on a stunt. Develin continues to the next level and drills the linebacker in the hole, shoving him backwards. Rey somehow manages to reach out and grab ahold of Vereen, but not before the running back has ripped off a 7-yard gain.
Finally, let’s show the big fullback some love for this hard-nosed carry:
The Patriots even go singleback with Develin on this play, and the Bengals simply cannot bring the big fella to the turf. The fullback loses his helmet on the play, capping off this All-Madden performance.
Ridley is crucial to the Patriots’ offense. On Sunday night the running back illustrated his importance to New England with a number of strong runs that forced the defense to respect the running game throughout the night. Here, we look at a few plays from the contest that illustrate Ridley’s talent and explosiveness as a ball-carrier.
New England has their 12 personnel on the field for this counter play in the 1st quarter. The Bengals utilize their base 4-3:
Ridley takes the handoff, cuts outside the right end, and makes Terence Newman whiff on the tackle attempt. Ridley then unleashes an explosive burst to beat the two linebackers to the sideline for a big gain.
The running back went over 100 yards on a simple cutback run in the 4th quarter, a play which showed what he can do when he makes a good read and a quick cut. From his position in the backfield behind Brady, he takes the handoff on a simple run up the gut. The Patriots use both a shift and motion to entice the Bengals to the right side of the offense. This moves the linebackers and opens up an opportunity backside:
The running back identifies this lane to his left and follows it, and then makes a hard step with his left leg to gain leverage to follow his blockers. This enables Ridley to cut hard up the field for a gain of 7 yards. Winning games is never easy in the NFL, and an offense needs plays like this simple run on every Sunday to leave with a victory.
Ridley’s longest run of the evening was a 43-yard carry with just over a minute left in the 3rd quarter. Facing 2nd and 11, New England has Ridley as a singleback using 12 personnel. Cincinnati expects the pass and has sent their nickel package onto the field. Ridley gets the ball on a simple dive play, but quickly bounces his run outside the left end. He finds himself one-on-one with a cornerback and the defensive player is left grasping at air:
Now, who in the world could have seen that coming?
43 yards later, Ridley and the Patriots are in Cincinnati’s red zone and Patriots fans are allowing themselves to believe anew.
Truth be told, there were a number of players and performances we could have highlighted in this column. Shane Vereen had a strong night, as did the offensive line. We chose to focus on Develin and Ridley because we believe these two players will play a huge role for the Patriots as the season progresses, beginning this weekend in Buffalo. Given what the Bills do on defense and the personnel they have, if New England can keep Buffalo’s base unit on the field and still have success in the running game, they will likely leave town with a victory. That only seems possible with similar performances from James Develin and Stevan Ridley.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.