Stevan Ridley's Fumbles Put Patriots in a Tough Spot, and Other AFC East News

Erik FrenzSenior Writer IDecember 20, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 16:  Strong safety Donte Whitner #31 of the San Francisco 49ers forces a fumble on running back Stevan Ridley #22 of the New England Patriots in the third quarter at Gillette Stadium on December 16, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Stevan Ridley knows better than most what the repercussions are for fumbling with the Patriots. He was all but carved out of the game plan for the 2011 playoff stretch because of two fumbles toward the end of the season.

Ridley has fumbled twice in the past two weeks; one that was recovered by New England in their 42-14 rout of the Texans, and another that popped up into the waiting arms of 49ers safety Dashon Goldson in the team's 41-34 loss in Week 15.

Will he become familiar with that feeling again?

Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston takes a closer look at the playing time for the Patriots running backs this season, and in doing so, points to an interesting dichotomy between this year's division of the work load as opposed to last year.

As the top back this year, Ridley has taken 44.9 percent of the snaps. That's 10.5 percent more than BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who played just 34.4 percent of the snaps as the top back last year. The second-year back out of LSU has high snap numbers despite four fumbles.

The Patriots have given Ridley a fair amount of wiggle room for such mistakes, because he's been a more explosive playmaker than any the Patriots have had in their backfield in recent years. 

The Patriots have their playoff spot locked up, so they can tinker with things a bit. They know what they have in Ridley, Shane Vereen and Danny Woodhead, so why not give Brandon Bolden some more snaps in the final two games of the season? He has only played three snaps since returning from a suspension.

There wasn't a whole lot Ridley could do about the fumble 49ers safety Donte Whitner forced, with his helmet square on the ball (as seen in the picture above) but at least this way, the Patriots know what they will be turning to in the event that Ridley's fumblitis returns in the playoffs.

That being said, they would be foolish to turn away from Ridley. In the past, the Patriots have gotten by with serviceable running backs. His explosiveness is what has made the Patriots running game something to fear this season. Put it this way: You don't bench Tom Brady for two interceptions, why bench Stevan Ridley for one fumble?

Here's some more news and analysis from around the AFC East.


Buffalo Bills

Bleacher Report Bills featured columnist Chris Trapasso examines the Bills' building blocks to return to relevance.

Chris Brown of says the Bills' coverage units are out for redemption against the Dolphins after getting beaten badly by the Seahawks.

Sam Monson of takes a look at why Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson consistently gives the best corners in the game a run for their money.


Miami Dolphins

B/R Dolphins featured columnist Scott Altman lists nine reasons why 2012 hasn't been a complete loss for the Dolphins.

Ben Volin of The Palm Beach Post talks about Miami's struggles in creating turnovers on defense.


New England Patriots

Matt Bowen of National Football Post talks about what went wrong for the Patriots and what went right for the 49ers on tight end Delanie Walker's 34-yard touchdown.

Christopher Price of explains why this year's Patriots draft class is the best they've had in almost a decade.


New York Jets

Joe Caporoso of talks with the creator of to figure out why the Jets are in so much trouble for 2013.

Ben Shpigel of The New York Times says while quarterback Mark Sanchez's fall is clear, but his future isn't.


Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.