Belichick spares Ridley on fumble

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley was spared responsibility for his third-quarter fumble by coach Bill Belichick, as Steelers safety Troy Polamalu ripped the ball out of his grasp after he caught a pass along the right sideline.

Since Ridley was benched in the season-opener due to ball-security issues, Belichick's post-game remarks were most significant.

"I thought Stevan did a good job. It was really a tremendous play by Polamalu," Belichick said. "Stevan caught his ball with his back to the defender. As he turned, Troy came in there and instead of making a tackle he was able to dislodge the ball. He anticipated Ridley turning up and Troy made a good play on it. I don't think Stevan really had much of a chance to do anything but turn.

"Sometimes turnovers are a result of real good defensive plays. Sometimes they're a result of sloppy plays offensively. I would, unfortunately, have to credit that one to Polamalu. He made a great play and that's one of those things you have to live with."

That will be welcome news to Ridley, who was charted on the field for a running back-high 51 snaps, as the Patriots turned to him as their workhorse one week after limiting him to just 20 snaps.

Belichick liked what he saw as Ridley totaled 115 yards on 26 carries and two touchdowns. It was Ridley's first 100-yard game of the season and fifth of his three-year career.

"Stevan ran hard, like he always does," he said. "He's a tough runner, he gets his yards, and then he always gets a few more because of his running style and his toughness and his pad level and getting downhill. He gave us that again."

Ridley, perhaps sensing that his role and fluctuating snaps would be a focal point of media-based discussion, declined comment after the game. But his teammates were happy to speak on his behalf.

"He runs so hard. You give it to him, you have so much confidence that you're going to gain yards," quarterback Tom Brady said. "He has a great spirit and energy about him, in what he brings to our offense in emotion. When he's confident, it helps our team immeasurably."