Byline: Rich Garven
PATRIOTS 28, DOLPHINS 0
GILLETTE STADIUM, FOXBORO
1st 2nd 3rd 4th Final
Miami 0 0 0 0 0
New England 7 14 0 7 28
Next game: Baltimore, Indianapolis or Houston at New England, 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 13 (Ch. 4)
Whether you believe Stevan Ridley has a fumbling problem is a matter of opinion, but everyone is in agreement the second-year running back has had himself a heck of a season.
Ridley stepped in for departed starter BenJarvus Green-Ellis and provided the Patriots with a combination of power and explosiveness while rushing for 1,263 yards (4.4 average) and 12 touchdowns this season.
He capped it off with 74 yards and two TDs on 20 carries in a 28-0 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
Ridley is the fifth player in franchise history to rush for at least 1,200 yards.
The others are Corey Dillon, who had a team record 1,635 yards in 2004, Curtis Martin (1,487 in 1995), Jim Nance (1,458 in '66) and Craig James (1,227 in '85).
His 12 rushing touchdowns are tied for fifth most in team history. Martin set the standard with 14 in 1995, a total he matched the following season.
Ridley has a solid offensive line to thank for his healthy numbers. But his blockers credited the back for frequently picking up yards on his own.
"As an offensive lineman it's our job to create running lanes," center Ryan Wendell said. "But it's great when you have a running back who can get yards when you don't do a very good job of creating running lanes for him. There were a couple of plays out there where we might not have done the best job of blocking and Ridley got 4 yards. That's pretty encouraging for an offensive line."
As for the fumbles, Ridley finished with four, two of which he lost. However, he was turnover free in the last two games.
Nose for the ball
The one thing the Patriots' defense has hung its helmet on this season is takeaways. That didn't change against the Dolphins as they produced two.
The first, an interception by safety Steve Gregory in the first quarter, set up the Patriots' first touchdown.
"I was just kind of reading the quarterback," Gregory said. "We were in man coverage and I was the middle-of-the-field guy. I just got a good break and read on the ball."
The other, a fumble recovery by linebacker Dont'a Hightower in the third quarter, likely denied the Dolphins of a score.
The Patriots finished the season with 41 takeaways. That tied the 2003 team for the most during Bill Belichick's 13-year tenure.