The New England Patriots have positioned themselves to gain momentum in the final quarter of the season with nine wins and only three losses in the first twelve games of the season. In light of all the distractions (Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, and Tim Tebow) and injuries (Rob Gronkowski, Shane Vereen, Danny Amendola, Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Jerod Mayo, Sebastian Vollmer, and Steve Gregory) earlier in the season, this is a great accomplishment by the team.
As the offense slowly returned injured receivers and integrated the young receivers on the roster, the offense improved week-by-week as quarterback Tom Brady gained trust and rapport with his teammates. With the offensive line continuing to improve in pass blocking after some early hiccups, the team is looking ready to grab one of the top two spots in the AFC, earn a bye week, and have a home game in the divisional round.
However, there is a major concern on offense that will derail them again in the post-season if it is not corrected in the next four weeks: running back Stevan Ridley and his fumbling issues.
With running back Shane Vereen healthy again, the Patriots offense has the third down/passing back the team has lacked. Unlike in 2012, the offense does not have the ball-carrier answering the bell and gashing defenses. Stevan Ridley has been limited in his snaps since week one due to his fumbling issues and the offense has suffered.
Ridley fumbled in the first game of the season against the Buffalo Bills and earned a seat on the bench. With only nine rushing attempts, it was a sign of what was to come this season for the third-year running back. The next three games saw Ridley with a reduced role and rushing the ball only 38 times over three games.
With strong games against New Orleans, Miami, and Pittsburgh, Ridley appeared to be back on track as the lead back in the offense. However, key fumbles in back-to-back games against Carolina and the following week against Denver led to Ridley being removed entirely from the offense. In fact, on Sunday against the Texans, thePatriots did not even dress Ridley and relied instead on Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden, LeGarrette Blount, and James Devlin...Click here for more: http://cover32.com/patriots/2013/12/03/steven-ridley-could-derail-the-patriots-superbowl-hopes/