FOXBOROUGH — Patriots running back Stevan Ridley, a Louisiana State University graduate, knew he was returning from a knee injury against the “team from back home,” the New Orleans Saints, so he had his favorite barber come to his house to get him ready.
He walked to the Gillette Stadium field for warm-ups debuting a Mohawk-esque cut with zig-zags shaved into the sides.
He walked off the field with 96 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries in the Patriots’ 30-27 win.
“I had to spice it up a little bit, man,” Ridley said. “I guess it worked. Probably some good luck on the day. I’m happy man, I really am.”
Ridley took control of an injury-riddled position that has been operating by committee.
New England committed to the run game early, especially in the first half, when Ridley ran for 61 yards on 11 carries. During that time, quarterback Tom Brady was second in rushing with 16 yards on two carries.
Coach Bill Belichick said that his team doesn’t put a player on the field that the coaching staff doesn’t have confidence in. All it took for Ridley to feel that confidence was his first touchdown.
Thirteen minutes into the second quarter, Ridley rushed for a 1-yard score to help his team take a 10-7 lead. He went to an imaginary watch and gestured to the crowd.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the zone, man,” Ridley said. “I was happy to be there, I really was. To come out here and find the end zone not once, but twice — I’m blessed, I’m thankful and I don’t take it for granted.”
He followed his first score with a 4-yard run for the game’s next touchdown less than six minutes later.
Ridley said he didn’t expect to have such a resurgent game. He went for physical therapy 2-3 times a day in his recovery process for the hurt knee that kept him out of last week’s loss at Cincinnati, and supplemented medicine with prayer.
He admitted that he has been frustrated with aspects of his game, but said it’s God’s way of teaching him patience.
“It’s tough to sit and watch your team play and be at home on the couch,” Ridley said. “I just have to keep plugging away. It’s not always going to go how we want it to go, but at the end of the day, [God’s] got us in his hands.”
Ridley slowly but surely pushed the Patriots towards the end zone in a third-quarter drive, but the offense stalled out and the team settled for a 54-yard field goal.
“For me, it’s just capitalizing on every carry that I get,” Ridley said. “Regardless if its 5 [yards] or if it’s 25, I just have to go out there and do my job.”
Belichick echoed his running back, saying that the entire roster has to capitalize and put forward consistent efforts each week. That starts with a game against the New York Jets next Sunday.
“We’ll see where we’re at,” Belichick said. “We’ll get tested here. We have a lot of good games, tough games coming up, and we’ll have to answer the bell.”Peter Cappiello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @petecapps.