When Stevan Ridley fumbled early in the second quarter of Friday night's preseason game between the Patriots and the Eagles, it was immediately recovered by fullback James Develin. It also appeared close as to whether or not the play should have technically been ruled a fumble at all since Ridley was very close to being on the ground when the ball popped loose.
Technicality or no technicality, Patriots coach Bill Belichick explained in a conference call on Saturday why the team never wants its players to loose their handle on the football.
"We always talk about ball-security," Belichick said. "Taking care of the ball, there's nothing that correlates more to winning and losing than the turnovers so that's always a high priority for us. We never want the ball out. On the other side of the ball, defensively and the kicking game, we always try to get it out. Sometimes when we get the ball out, we don't recover it. Sometimes when we recover it, they blow it dead. But we always want to try to do that.
"Same goes true on the offensive side of the ball. We don't want plays where they end up with the ball, whether they're ruled in our favor or not: Have an interception in their hands but drop it, or plays where the ball gets away from us, or we recover, or it goes out of bounds, or they recover it. Those are all plays that we try to avoid, obviously. They do matter. And so do the ones that we -- same thing on defense. Plays where we get it out . . . we don't get 'em all. But the more we get 'em out, the more we'll get. So they are significant."
Ridley did not set foot on the field following his fumble, but he told Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran after the game that it was part of the game plan all along to pull him at that point. He finished with nine carries for 45 yards in New England's 42-35 win.
Undrafted rookie Jonas Gray led the Patriots in rushing with 98 yards on 12 carries. Fellow undrafted rookie Roy Finch had seven carries for 37 yards and a touchdown while rookie fourth rounder James White -- who, speaking of ball-security, had over 750 touches in his college career and fumbled twice -- had 27 yards on 10 carries.