Stevan Ridley has been benched for fumbling before.
Ball security has been an issue since the back was drafted in 2011. As a rookie, he fumbled in New England's Divisional Playoff and was consequently sidelined for the Conference Championship and Super Bowl XLVI. The following season Ridley emerged as the Patriots lead back, but four fumbles impacted his snap count.
Just this year, in Week 1, the 24-year-old slunk off to the doghouse after twice committing the worst of all running back sins in Buffalo.
So what a surprise when he stayed in Sunday's game.
Ridley had 12 rushes for 40 yards and a touchdown when New England went into the break up 24-10 on Pittsburgh. On the Patriots' first series of the third quarter, quarterback Tom Brady threw a short pass to Ridley for a catch-and-run on the right side of the field. The runner had his back to veteran Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, and when he turned, Polamalu stripped the ball. Pittsburgh recovered on New England's 36 and converted the turnover into seven points.
But as offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels explained Monday, New England needed to move the ball and felt Ridley was the best man for the job. Simple as that.
"We have a ton of confidence in Stevan and all our backs," he said on a conference call. "We know they're not out there trying to do anything to hurt the team and sometimes those things happen -- sometimes the defense makes a good play. But I think most importantly is how we respond and react to that.
"I thought he did a good job of coming back, and running the ball hard, and protecting the quarterback on a few protections and plays after that happened, and getting out. I think he caught one or two balls after that happened, as well."
Ridley finished leading all running backs with 26 carries for 115 yards and two TDs. His attempts total is the highest it's been this season and is his most since October of 2012.
It's not how New England has handled Ridley's fumbles in the past. But perhaps it's what the team will do moving forward.
"If you didn't make mistakes, this game would be a lot easier, but everybody does," McDaniels said. "It's more important how we handle going forward, as opposed to trying to keep track of those different things and penalize guys in the course of the games. We're all out there trying to do our best and we understand things are going to happen.
"I thought he responded well to that."