Bill Belichick sent Stevan Ridley an unmistakable message Sunday after Ridley's second fumble of the game -- an unforced drop after he tripped and fell that was returned 74 yards for a touchdown by the Bills' Da'Norris Searcy in the second quarter -- when he benched the young running back for the rest of the afternoon.
And after the game, Logan Mankins seconded Belichick's thoughts . . . loud and clear.
"This is Stevan's third year and it's not his first fumble," the veteran offensive lineman said on 'Patriots Postgame Live' with Michael Felger, Troy Brown and Mike Flynn on Comcast SportsNet. "So I think he understands the magnitude of when you fumble the ball that you're going to get pulled.
"It's not the first time it's happened and he understands that he's carrying the whole team. That ball belongs to everyone on the team, and he has to protect it. You put it on the ground and something's going to happen. You're going to put someone in there that's not going to put it on the ground."
Judging by his remarks to reporters in Buffalo, Ridley received the message.
"It was pretty obvious, man, you can't have two turnovers in one game and expect to stay in," he said. "The coaches had to do the best move for the team and make sure we won this game, and they picked the players that they went with and we rolled through and we're lucky to pull out the win like we did."
"I'm not going to sit on the past. I just have to accept where I messed up, made a mistake and grow from it. That's really all you can do, having to point the finger, come back to work tomorrow. I hate it, it's unfortunate, but, you know, it's part of the game of football and I'm going to have to keep working, keep driving and pushing forward. We've got 15 more weeks in front of us and I'm going right back to work."
Mankins wasn't surprised Ridley reacted the way he did.
"I know he feels bad about it, because I've talked to him about it before," said Mankins. "He's not doing it intentionally, or being careless; it's just one of those things.
"But if that happens, you're going to put the guy in there that's going to hold onto the ball."