Stats & Info: Stevan Ridley

Blount's historic day leads Patriots to win

January, 12, 2014
David Butler II/USA TODAY SportsLeGarrette Blount became the second player to run for four touchdowns in an NFL postseason game.
Playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012, LeGarrette Blount had 151 rush yards and two rushing touchdowns the entire season.

In the New England Patriots’ divisional playoff victory Saturday night over the Indianapolis Colts, Blount surpassed both of those numbers, making NFL history with 166 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns in the 43-22 victory.

He’s just the second player in NFL postseason history to run for at least four touchdowns in a game. Ricky Watters had five for the San Francisco 49ers in a divisional playoff game in the 1993 season. No other player has had more than three, making Blount the first player in postseason history to have more than 120 rushing yards with at least four rushing touchdowns in a game.

For the game, 162 of Blount’s 166 yards came on runs inside the tackles. That’s the fifth-most by a player in a game this season, regular and postseason.

The Patriots' blocking deserves a lot of credit for the performance as well. Blount had 146 of his yards before contact, the second-most such yards for a player in a game this season. Only DeMarco Murray (149 against the Rams in Week 3) had more this year.

Blount didn't do it alone
Blount wasn’t the only Patriots running back to find the end zone. Stevan Ridley scored twice to give the Patriots six rushing touchdowns for the game, making them just the third team in NFL postseason history to reach that mark.

Before Saturday, the Patriots had never rushed for more than four touchdowns in either a regular-season or postseason game.

Patriots win without Brady TD
All the success the Patriots had running the ball meant the load was lighter on Tom Brady.

This is the fourth time that Brady has played a postseason game and not thrown for a touchdown. The Patriots are 4-0 in those games, two of them coming in 2001, Brady’s first season as a starter. The other was in the 2011 AFC Championship Game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Scoring at least 43 points in a postseason game without a touchdown pass is a rare accomplishment; it’s now been done just three times in NFL history.

• Super Bowl XX: The Bears beat the Patriots 46-10 with four rushing touchdowns and an interception return for a touchdown.
• 1993 divisional playoffs: The 49ers beat the Giants 44-3 with no TD passes from starter Steve Young, thanks to those five Watters scores.
• Saturday: All six Patriots touchdowns come on runs.

It’s unusual that the Patriots lean this heavily on the run. The Patriots called designed rush plays on 46 of their 73 offensive snaps (63 percent) against Indianapolis -- their highest rate in any postseason game since 2001. During the regular season, the Patriots ran the ball 41.3 percent of the time, the 15th-highest rate in the NFL.

AFC/NFC title games: Need-to-know info

January, 19, 2013
Looking back at the Stats and Info Blog's coverage leading up to the AFC and NFC Championships on Sunday afternoon.

Eight stats to know: AFC championship
Notes stats and trends on Tom Brady’s home-field advantage, the value of being a No. 4 seed, and much more.

Eight stats to know: NFC championship
Notes, stats and trends on the value of being a No. 1 seed, the Atlanta Falcons past against the San Francisco 49ers, and the pair of Matty Ices.

Lewis may not have huge impact vs Brady
Ray Lewis has had a great career, but he’s done little against Tom Brady in past meetings.

Flacco finds deep-throw success in playoffs
Joe Flacco completed only 37 percent of throws 20 or more yards downfield in the regular season. He’s fared considerably better in the postseason.

Kaepernick adds more than rushing upgrade
Colin Kaepernick’s skills include the ability to get the best out of receivers like Michael Crabtree.

Falcons must contain 49ers option game
The Green Bay Packers may have been taken by surprise considering that Kaepernick hadn’t kept the ball on an option play since Week 14. The Falcons won’t be, but they’ve had their share of troubles with quarterback runs this season.

Gronkowski injury will not slow down Patriots
Rob Gronkowski is out for the rest of the postseason, but you can expect the New England Patriots to continue to use their two tight-end set.

Young running backs emerge for Patriots
A closer look at what Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen do best.

Young running backs emerge for Patriots

January, 18, 2013

Getty Images, USA TODAY SportsStevan Ridley (left) and Shane Vereen (right) have made the Patriots offense more dynamic.
The secret is out on the pair of dynamic young talents the New England Patriots have in their backfield.

Second-year running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen beat the Houston Texans on the ground and through the air Sunday for 219 combined yards and four touchdowns, helping to propel the Patriots into the AFC Championship game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Stopping this young duo will not be easy for the Ravens, especially with Tom Brady at the top of his game.

Here is a look at the matchup problems each player will present Sunday.

Stevan Ridley
Ridley, the bigger of the two backs at 5-11, 220 pounds, is having a breakout year. The early-down specialist rushed for 1,263 yards with 12 touchdowns during the regular season and added 82 rushing yards with another score on the ground Sunday.

Ridley is at his best when asked to help the Patriots wind the clock with a lead. As the chart shows, no running back was better than Ridley in the second half with his team protecting a lead.

Picking up yards after contact is something he does regardless of the score. On Sunday alone, Ridley picked up three first downs when he was contacted before the first down-marker. His 38 first downs on plays where he was hit short of the markers was good for third in the NFL behind only Adrian Peterson and Alfred Morris.

Shane Vereen
As linebacker Barrett Ruud and the Texans found out Sunday, Vereen can be a playmaker in the passing game and a great complement to Ridley.

In the fourth quarter of that game, Vereen lined up wide to the left, faked an inside move and reeled in a pefect sideline throw from Brady for a 33-yard touchdown. The play might have caught the Texans off guard but it was nothing new for the young running back. In college at Cal, Vereen ran the same route down the left sideline against the Andrew Luck-led Stanford Cardinal back in 2008 for a 59-yard touchdown.

Shane Vereen
Vereen has now hauled in 13-of-16 targets this season. Despite an average target depth of just 4.9 yards downfield, Vereen turned those 13 receptions into 232 yards, thanks mostly to an incredible average of 14.4 yards-after-catch per reception.

Vereen’s 17.6 yards-after-catch per reception during the regular season was first among backs with multiple receptions.

The versatility he offers the Patriots in the passing game is something New England hasn’t seen since Kevin Faulk. In fact, Vereen’s touchdown catch against Houston was the first by a Patriots running back while split out wide since Faulk back in October of 2008 against the St. Louis Rams.

Ridley and Vereen complement each other very well and make the already strong Patriot offense that much harder to stop.

Patriots make Texans pay for approach

January, 13, 2013

AP Photo/Elise AmendolaShane Vereen and Tom Brady combined to do in the Texans again.
The Houston Texans elected to pursue New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady with nearly the same fervor that they did when the Patriots clobbered them in Week 14.

And on Sunday they paid a similar price.

Brady was 12-for-19 for 208 yards and two touchdowns against five or more pass rushers, as part of a 344-yard, three-touchdown day. As you can see in the chart on the right, it mimicked his performance in Week 14.

Brady passed Joe Montana for most postseason starts won with his 17th.

He’ll tie Montana for the most conference championship game starts when he faces the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship next Sunday. He also joined Montana and Brett Favre as the only quarterbacks with at least 40 postseason touchdown passes.

Brady wasn’t the only one to have a huge game in the Patriots' 41-28 win. Let’s take a look at some of the other statistical highlights.

Vereen leads ground game
Patriot running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen combined for 219 total yards (48 percent of the Patriots offense) and four touchdowns, showcasing an inside running game the Patriots haven’t had in recent postseason appearances.

Nearly all (113) of their 123 rushing yards came inside the tackles, an average of more than six per rush. In the previous three postseasons, Patriots running backs averaged only 3.5 yards when running inside the tackles.

The Elias Sports Bureau noted that Vereen became the third player in NFL postseason history with two touchdown receptions and a touchdown run in a postseason game. He joins Roger Craig (1984 San Francisco 49ers) and Ricky Watters (1994 49ers), each of whom did so in a Super Bowl.

Vereen also tied the Patriots record for most touchdowns in a postseason game, matching a mark previously set by Curtis Martin and Rob Gronkowski.

Vereen collected 58 receiving yards and two receptions and a touchdown when lined up wide, only the third touchdown for a running back lined up wide this season, and the most such receiving yards for a RB in a game over the last three seasons in any game.

Welker comes up big
Wes Welker’s 131 receiving yards were a career-high, surpassing his previous best of 103
in Super Bowl XLII against the Giants.

Welker entered the game with a league-high 669 yards after the catch. He had 62 in this game.

With eight catches Welker also broke the Patriots postseason record for career receptions, his 61 surpassing Troy Brown’s record of 58.

Stat of the Weekend
With 276 points scored, the 2012 Divisional Playoffs are the highest scoring round of the postseason in NFL history.

All eight teams scored at least 28 points in the Divisional Round. No team scored more than 24 points in the Wild Card games.

Looking ahead
This will be the first AFC Championship rematch since the Denver Broncos and Cleveland Browns faced each other in both 1986 and 1987.

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis will face the Patriots in Foxborough for the seventh time. He’s 0-4 against them in the regular season, 1-1 in the postseason.

Better running game: Patriots or Texans?

December, 6, 2012

Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesArian Foster leads the AFC with 1,102 rushing yards this season.
Each week, Stats & Information has a point-counterpoint discussion on an NFL topic of note. This week, two of our stat analysts weigh in on the Monday Night Football matchup, discussing whose ground game is more effective, the Patriots or Texans.

New England Patriots

The New England Patriots’ running game has been more effective and is essential to the team’s third-down success. The Patriots lead the league converting 52.9 percent of their third downs, and have 116 rush first downs, also best in the league.

Stevan Ridley has been the key to the rejuvenated rush attack and has become just the fourth Patriots running back in the Bill Belichick era to eclipse 1,000 yards (1,010). He also leads the league with 66 rushing first downs.

As a team, the Patriots have run the ball 20 times this season on third or fourth down with one yard to go and have converted on 90 percent of those plays, the highest rate in the league.

The Texans are 14th in the league in the same situations, converting 68.2 percent.

Ridley leads the team with seven of these conversions on eight attempts, and Tom Brady is 5-for-5 with a touchdown. In fact, at 98.1 percent, Brady leads the NFL in third-and-1 conversion percentage since the 2001 season (his first year as a starter) among anyone with at least 25 such attempts.

The Patriots not only have been rushing more frequently and for more yards in 2012, but they are relying on the ground game to come up with crucial yards and key first downs.

-Adam Grigely

Houston Texans

The Houston Texans’ run game is the key to their ball-control offense. Houston has run the ball 413 times, most in the NFL. Their average time of possession per game (34:07) is also more than every other team.

The catalyst to the Texans’ running game is Arian Foster, who has the most rushes in the NFL (283) and the most rushing yards in the AFC (1,102).

The closer the Texans get to their opponent’s goal line, the better Foster becomes. Foster has 13 rushing touchdowns in the red zone, with 10 of them coming in goal-to-go situations. Both totals lead the NFL.

Even when defenses load the tackle box by having more defenders than the offense has available blockers, the Texans are among the best running teams in the league. They have an NFL-high 19 rushing first downs in those situations and are tied for the league lead with five rushing touchdowns.

The Texans’ ability to run the ball has helped open up play action. Matt Schaub has 10 touchdown passes off of play fakes, tied with Peyton Manning and Drew Brees for the most in the NFL. Their running game is a main reason the Texans are 11-1, tied with the Falcons for the best record in the NFL.

-Bobby Greenhalgh

Brady makes short work of Broncos

October, 7, 2012

U.S. Presswire/Greg M. CooperTom Brady had the right touch in Sunday's win.
Peyton Manning may have had gaudier numbers than Tom Brady, but Brady and the New England Patriots got the better of things on the scoreboard.

The Patriots had a strategic approach to counter some of the Denver Broncos tendencies and made it work. Let’s take a closer look at how New England came through and how Brady got his ninth win in 13 matchups with Manning.

Brady dinks and dunks
Tom Brady used short passes to pick apart the Broncos defense. Brady was 22-for-26 on throws of 10 yards or fewer, gaining 198 yards on those passes.

He was 1-for-5 for 25 yards when throwing the ball at least 11 yards downfield.

Brady entered the day ninth in the NFL in completion percentage on those short throws-- with a 73 percent rate.

Brady had his 37th straight game with a touchdown throw, passing Brett Favre for the third-longest streak of games with one in NFL history.

Broncos go away from what worked
Entering week 4, the Broncos sent five or more pass rushers at the third-highest rate this season (41 percent) with the second-lowest completion percentage allowed on such plays (48 percent).

On Sunday, the Broncos sent added pressure just 32 percent of the time, and Brady made them pay by going 8-for-10 against that rush for 79 yards.

Ridley’s specialty
The Patriots set a franchise record with 35 total first downs against the Broncos.

Stevan Ridley had nine of those to build on his league-leading total entering the weekend. Ridley also leads the NFL in rushing first downs when contacted by a defender before reaching the first-down marker.

On his way to a career-high 151 yards rushing, Ridley added two runs of that type and powered through a defender at the 2-yard line to get into the end zone for his only score of the game.

Welker approaching a record
Wes Welker’s 13 catches gave him 15 games with at least 10 receptions in his career. That’s tied with Reggie Wayne for the third-most in NFL history. Jerry Rice (17) and Marvin Harrison (16) are the only two players with more.

Welker tied his career-best streak of 100-yard games with his third in a row.

Unusual loss for Manning
Manning fall to 31-5 in games in which he threw for at least three touchdowns and had no interceptions. The five quarterbacks who have beaten him are Steve Young, Byron Leftwich, David Carr, Matt Schaub, and Brady.

Stat of the Game
The Patriots had 251 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. It’s the first time they’ve had at least three rushing scores in consecutive games since 1978. The rushing yardage total was also the third-most in the Bill Belichick era (since 2000).