For many seasons, the New England Patriots offense and its success depended heavily on Tom Brady's performance. To be fair, even Tom Brady has some off days.
But if Sunday's 34-13 victory over the Tennessee Titans proved one thing, it is that the Patriots might have something that has been missing for quite some time: balance.
Looking purely at the stats, the offense was solid throughout the game.
Quarterback Tom Brady finished 23 for 31 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns which included a 28 yard bomb to tight end Rob Gronkowski. In fact, Rob Gronkowski, Brandon Lloyd, Aaron Hernandez and running back Stevan Ridley all caught passes for 20 or more yards from Brady.
Last season, the highlight of the offense was the tight end tandem of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Against Tennessee, both were in mid-season form scoring individual touchdowns but it was another aspect of the offense that really made an impression on Sunday and that was the running game.
Without BenJarvus Green-Ellis, the idea that the Patriots no longer have safe hands for the ball was common. Green-Ellis, most known for never fumbling the ball in his entire professional career, was not an explosive back but was safe. It could be argued that because of that, the Patriots running game was just average and was never a powerful scoring weapon. When the Patriots drafted two running backs early in the 2011 NFL Draft, it was clear that they wanted to be more than just average.
Shane Vereen (56th overall) and Stevan Ridley (73rd overall) are the most prominent faces of the Patriots running back crew. Vereen has been hindered with injuries but showed promise during the preseason. But on Sunday, all eyes were on Stevan Ridley. With his rookie season tarnished with crucial fumbles, even with decent showings in the preseason, Ridley was more of a question mark entering the regular season.
To the surprise of many, the LSU alum was impressive rushing for 125 yards with 21 carries and a touchdown. The last player to have a 100+ yard game was BenJarvus Green-Ellis in 2011 against the New York Jets when he ran for 136 yards.
In true Patriots fashion, Ridley reassured that it was a team effort,
"I didn't do anything out of the ordinary. I was just the player that I was and out there playing ball."
Ridley isn't just being modest. The offensive line, tight ends and receivers blocked exceptionally well that gave him the opportunity to make the best possible plays. Ridley also excelled in obtaining some extra valuable yards without fumbling the ball.
The running game combined with the impressive showing of the wide receivers and tight ends, the Patriots have made quite the statement offensively.
Whether or not they will be able to continue this trend is a mystery, but for the first time a long time, every aspect of the team was impressive.
Kisha Tapangan is contributing writer for Patriots Insider.com. She also manages the blog Necessary Roughness with Kisha. She can also be found on twitter @KishaT. Feel free to email her your thoughts here.
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