Patriots rookie running back Stevan Ridley rushed for a career-high 97 yards on 10 carries in Sunday's 31-19 triumph over the Raiders at O.co Coliseum. But watch the tape and you'll see something interesting: All of his yards came running to the right side of the line.
Ridley picked up all 97 yards on six trots to the right side, which yielded four first downs and a 33-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter. Four trots to the center or left of the line yielded no net yardage, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
Ridley said after the game that, "those were the biggest holes I’ve ever seen in my life." Was he just talking up his offensive linemen? Maybe a little. But let's put his touchdown run under the microscope and you'll see they did a great job of providing space to run.
Two things to note here at the snap: With tight end Rob Gronkowski motioning outside of tackle Nate Solder and forcing a linebacker to come cover him up, the right side of the line already has a favorable look given the space between the defensive end and defensive tackle, with no linebacker in the gap as part of the 4-3 alignment. What's more, look at guard Brian Waters explode off the line. He's up and looking for someone to hit practically before quarterback Tom Brady even receives the snap.
First thing to note is how far both Solder and Gronkowski push their assignments outside of the hash marks. As Waters helps center Dan Connolly with the defensive tackle, that essentially leaves safety Tyvon Branch (33) and linebacker Rolando McClain (55) to make the stop, but remember Waters' position, as he's almost facing back towards the line of scrimmage to aid Connolly.
Looking nothing like a 34-year-old guard should after 11 years in the league, Waters performs a little 270-degree spin move off his initial block and is able to get further upfield and chip McClain, preventing him from getting at Ridley. It's essentially on Branch to prevent this from being a touchdown.
With Patriots receiver Deion Branch sealing off a cornerback, Ridley just charges through Tyvon Branch's tackle attempt. Ridley barely slows down and actually turns on the jets, leaving McClain to make a last-ditch leap in hopes of driving the back out of bounds.
Ridley wins the foot race and a little leap prevents McClain from taking out his legs on the dive. The score capped a seven-play, 81-yard scoring drive and put the Patriots on top, 24-10, early in the third quarter. Ridley carried three times on the drive and caught a short pass as well.
Asked after the game what he saw on the play, Ridley said: "Green grass, man, and a lot of it." And he wasn't lying.