Effort from Bolden, Ridley a vote for offensive balance

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Effort from Bolden, Ridley a vote for offensive balance

ORCHARD PARK, NY -- New England's 52-28 win over Buffalo features some gaudy numbers.
Just ask the running backs, Brandon Bolden and Stevan Ridley in particular. The pair combined for 243 of the Patriots' 580 total offensive yards.
You're correct to assume it's been a while since multiple backs have had 100 rushing yards in one game. The last time it happened was 1980, when Don Calhoun ran for 106 and Vagas Ferguson for 100 against Baltimore.
The Baltimore Colts.
Bolden's effort Sunday evening must have felt like a sucker punch.
Prior to Week 4, the rookie back had just 15 yards to his name. He exploded against the Bills for 137 and a touchdown.
And while this is a player who had at least five 100 yard games in his junior year at Ole Miss, it's unlikely anyone expected his NFL transition to look so easy so quickly.
Maybe not even Bolden. The 22-year old sounded happily bewildered about why everything worked so well on Sunday afternoon.
"To be honest, I don't know," he smiled. "I don't know if that was the game plan or because it kind of just rolled into it. We had everybody back. We had all the backs there, and we were just going in. Everybody was waiting for their number to be called, everybody was just on standby."
With Shane Vereen's activation this week, New England's stable of backs was full for the first time this season. Not that it mattered early; he, Ridley, and Bolden got just 88 yards of work in the first half. The Patriots went into the break down 14-7.
Consequently, Buffalo expected Tom Brady to air it out.
With New England's back against the wall, the Bills put smaller defensive personnel out on the field to counter an aerial assault. Not only was it a wrong guess, but it couldn't be corrected.
"We played well as an offense," said Ridley. "We got off to a slow start, but it's not about how you start, it's how you finish. For us, coming out with a win is all that matters. We're working hard every day."
Seven Patriots touchdowns, five unanswered, stretched oppressively from the third quarter on out. And the more work the backs got, the better.
New England's first scoring drive since the first quarter was an eight play, 80-yard march that was largely fought and won (63 yards worth) on the ground.
For the record, the Patriots put up just 167 combined rushing yards in its losses to Arizona and Baltimore.
"I guess if you want to call that the fix then, we'll call it the fix," Ridley said of a balanced offense. "But in-and-out of each week things are going to change, schemes are going to change. But when they call our number as running backs we have to go in and make a play and that's what we try to do. Nobody's Super Man, we just work together as a group. When our running backs are out there, whoever it is, we're just working together and supporting each other.
"As a player, we're just playing what's called," he continued. "I put that on the coaches and the coaches did a great job; they put us in a position to win like they do every week. We running backs just expect to come in and play ball."
Count this 52-28 win over Buffalo as a vote cast for balance.
"It's like how we work on the running game all week, then we get out there, we do however good we did. It just feels great," said Bolden. "That's what all that hard work and determination was for."

OFFSEASON

Celtics interested in bringing back big man Kris Humphries

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Celtics interested in bringing back big man Kris Humphries

Former Celtics big man Kris Humphries is among the players the Celtics are interested in bringing in via free agency, sources tell CSNNE.

The 6-foot-9 Humphries, 31, who averaged 8.4 points and 9.5 rebounds for the Celtics in 2013-14 after coming to Boston as part of the Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett trade with the Nets, averaged 14.8 points and 9.8 rebounds for three teams (the Wizards, Suns and Hawks) last season. 

OFFSEASON

Report: Knicks, Lakers among six teams interested in Evan Turner

Report: Knicks, Lakers among six teams interested in Evan Turner

Evan Turner revived his career with the Celtics the past two years and is now drawing plenty of interest around the league as free agency opens.

The unrestricted free agent averaged 10.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.4  assists as a sixth man last season with Boston. The Sporting News reports that the Knicks, Lakers, Bulls, Pelicans, Mavericks and Grizzlies are looking to bid for Turner.  

Turner earlier expressed an interest in returning to the Celtics, who have their immediate focus on meetings with Kevin Durant and Al Horford this weekend and dealing with their other free agents Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko and restricted free agents Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller, as well. 

NBA.com’s David Aldridge reports the interest between the Lakers and Turner is mutual. 

PFF: Collins is 'the best linebacker in the AFC'

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PFF: Collins is 'the best linebacker in the AFC'

He may have been left off of the NFL Network's Top 100 list, but Jamie Collins isn't flying under the radar at Pro Football Focus.

On PFF's list of the top 10 defensive players in the AFC, the Patriots linebacker came in at No. 8 and was given the description as the top linebacker in the conference.

Collins' versatility within the confines of the Patriots defense is what makes him so valuable, PFF's John Kosko explains: 

"He doesn’t dominate in any one role like Luke Kuechly does in pass coverage and run defense, but he is very good at all facets of the game. Collins has the athleticism to cover TEs and HBs effectively, the explosiveness to rush the passer, and the size and strength to defend the run. 

"The former Southern Mississippi linebacker is arguably the most versatile player in the NFL, and allows Bill Belichick to employ a defense that confuses opposing quarterbacks. With the only knock against Collins being his 34 missed tackles the past two seasons, the Patriot is the best linebacker in the AFC."

Collins graded out as the No. 5 linebacker in football last year, per PFF's numbers. He ranked behind only Carolina's Luke Kuechly, Minnesota's Anthony Barr, Indianapolis' Jerrell Freeman and Seattle's KJ Wright. 

Fellow Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower earned the 10th-highest grade for linebackers last season, according to PFF -- a grade that likely would have been higher had his snap-count (602 in 2015) approached that of Collins (792).

While Collins is a rare physical talent, the argument could be made that it's Hightower who is the more important player to the Patriots defense given his prowess as a pass-rusher and run-defender. He also has myriad responsibilities as the extension of the team's coaching staff in the defensive huddle. 

In order to slow down opposing passing games, many Patriots defensive packages employ either five or six defensive backs and just two linebackers. Lucky for them, they have two of the best in the conference.

Both Collins and Hightower are entering contract years this year, and finding a way to keep them in-house figures to be near the top of the list of priorities for the Patriots front office.