FOXBORO -- When the Patriots needed crucial yards on the ground in the second half on Saturday, rookie Stevan Ridley was Bill Belichick's running back of choice.
Ridley finished Saturday's 27-24 win over the Miami Dolphins with a career-high 13 carries. Eleven of those came in the second half. He finished the game with 64 rushing yards. Sixty of those came in the second half.
It marked the second straight week that Ridley led the Patriots in rushing, and had more carries than any other back on the team. Last weekend, Ridley had 11 rushes for 65 yards. And if Saturday showed anything at all, it was that Ridley's speed and improvement has taken carries away from BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead, who combined for seven carries and 30 yards on Saturday.
"I think Stevan has run well for us all year," said Belichick after the win. "He had really a couple strong runs today, ran through a couple tackles. There are still a lot of things he could do better, but he made some plays and there are other plays that could have been better. But he runs hard with the ball."
The third-round pick out of LSU has also impressed his offensive linemen.
"He's a great runner," said Donald Thomas, who made his first NFL start since 2009 on Saturday. "Young, energetic, he's going to fight for those yards. And as you saw today, once he gets going, once he gets that little head bobbing, he's trying to get the crowd going, you know he's join got run real good. You've just got to get on your guy, make some guys miss for you. And you saw today, the second half, he showed up.
"There's a reason why he's here. It just says that, when his number's called, he's ready to go. And I think today, he really showed up. He did a great job today.
"Man, that's not the first time," said veteran offensive lineman Brian Waters. "When he's gotten opportunities this season, he's done a really good job. And it doesn't surprise me. There's a reason why they invested a high-quality draft pick in a running back. And he's played some big-time football at LSU. So he knows how to perform. It's just a matter of being consistent with it, and coming back next week and having just the same week of preparation, and being ready to do it again."
So now, the Patriots are getting a better feel for what they have in Ridley. But nobody's ever doubted his talent level. They just hope he continues to improve in his preparation during the week.
"He's definitely improved," said Waters. "But the improvement will come during the week, more than it does on Sunday. I think we all know what type of talent he has on Sunday. But his preparation, as he continues to improve during the week, he's going to be an even better football player."