FOXBORO - Bill Belichick has long said that, whenever a player has the ball, he carries the fortunes of the entire organization in his hands.
Not surprisingly, Belichick hates the sight of the entire organization's fortunes skidding across soaking wet fake grass or tumbling slowly through the air with nobody's hand directing them.
Fumbles. Bill Belichick hates 'em.
More now, it seems, that he ever used to.
Sunday night, Stevan Ridley fumbled for the sixth time in his career in 339 carries. For the second time this season and third time in his career, that fumble was recovered by the opponent.
It was, as Belichick would say, not what you're looking for. But it was something we used to see from the Patriots much more than we do over the past three seasons.
Consider these statistics for fumbles and fumbles lost since 2001.
2012: 13 and 7
2011: 13 and 5
2010: 9 and 5
2009: 17 and 9
2008: 17 and 10
2007: 14 and 6
2006: 27 and 15
2005: 19 and 9
2004: 24 and 13
2002: 24 and 10
2001: 29 and 13
It's eye-opening to see how often the Patriots put the ball on the ground early in the Belichick-Brady regime. And a good chunk of that was attributable to Brady, who had 11 fumbles in 2002 and 13 in 2003.
These days, though, fumbling is cause for banishment. Last season, Ridley put the ball on the ground twice late in the year. One of those fumbles was lost. He was put on ice for the most part. We'll see what the outgrowth of Sunday's fumble is. The Patriots may chalk Ridley's fumble up to a perfectly-placed hit by safety Donte Whitner and not punish Ridley with a loss of playing time. Judging by his face right after the fumble occurred -- like a dog who just got apprehended for leaving a present on the living room floor -- Ridley understood he'd done wrong.
For his part, Brady says -- somewhat tepidly -- he's got confidence in Ridley.
"I have confidence in everybody," said Brady. "If you're on this roster, everyone has confidence in you. I love every guy that I play with. Those guys give everything that they got... Stevan's done a great job this year."
Turnovers for the Patriots are rare and they are not treated with a shrug.
"I know when we win, sometimes we feel like we do a lot of things really well, and we do," Brady explained. "And the other night we do some things really well and we do plenty of things that are the reasons why we lost. I think it comes back to, a lot of times, limiting turnovers. We had four turnovers. You lose the turnover battle and a lot of times, you lose the game. Weve got to try to protect the ball this week. Certainly, thats a big point of emphasis and hopefully we can do a better job."
In his opinion, is this year's model adroit at fixing issues?
"Well, well see," he predicted. "This is when it matters most. There are important games like this that you see how tough you are to put things behind you and to move forward. We had a pretty good streak there going of wins and it feels pretty good when you're on those winning streaks, and then when you lose, it feel like you havent won a game in three years. Theres evaluation and self evaluation and the coach gives you evaluation and you try to use it in practice this week to be better and to be as prepared as you can possibly be so you dont go out and lose again."
Turnovers lead to losses, there is no arguing that. The more Stevan Ridley puts the ball on the ground, the better the chance the Patriots lose.
What the Patriots need to figure out, though, is whether not using Stevan Ridley -- stray fumbles and all -- helps than win more than not using him.