After a decade of dominance, the Ravens stingy run defense lost a ton luster after finnishing 20th in the league this year. They lost their attacking fist of Terrell Suggs for most of the season, then losing their heart in Ray Lewis, and seeing the brain of Ed Reed off the field at times. The body of this Ravens defense has been in jeopardy reeling from the loss of its individual pieces. Suggs and Lewis are back, Reed is healthy, and the Ravens are playing with a conviction and passion we have not seen since the magical 2000 Super Bowl season.
The Patriots have a top 10 rushing attack for the first time in the Tom Brady era, and Stevan Ridley is the reason for it. Ridley’s 1263 and 12 touchdowns lead the way to the Patriots seventh ranked rushing attack, with Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead, and Brandon Boldin all recording 250+ rushing yards as well. Ridley is a pure rusher, who comes off the field for passing downs, making way for Woodhead and Hernandez to catch passes out of the backfield.
Last week was a microcosm of the season, as Ridley got his 15 carries for 82 yards and a touchdown, but another Patriots running back was schemed to play a huge part. Shane Vereen took Danny Woodhead’s role after a hand injury, and caught 5 passes for 83 yards and 2 touchdowns, while carrying 7 times for 41 yards and a touchdown. The Ravens run defense, led by Suggs and Lewis, has had great success against the Patriots, not allowing a Patriots 100-yard rusher since Corey Dillon in 2004. If Ray Lewis has anything to say about it, and he will, the Patriots will once again struggle to run the ball. Stevan Ridley may be just the remedy for the Patriots rushing woes against the Ravens, taking pressure off Tom Brady, and helping to control this game.