Leading up to Week 16, a popular topic of debate was how, if at all, the Patriots should adjust the role of running back Stevan Ridley in light of two recent fumbles.
The same set of mishaps rendered Ridley a non-factor in the playoffs last season, but when the game began on Sunday, it was Ridley in the offensive backfield for the first series.
He finished the day as the Patriots' leader in both carries and snaps among running backs, playing 35 of 73 in total. Asked on Monday how he approaches a situation with managing a player's carries following ball security issues, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels discussed the importance of examining from a broader scope.
"I think you have to look at it kind of in totality," he said. "Stevan's carried the ball a lot of times for us this year, and done a lot of good things for us, and really helped our offense move the football and score points. And I think that when you look at issues, whether it be ball security or pass protection or the ability to run the ball outside -- whatever the issue may be -- there's also a reason. As a coach, I think your goal is to try to give the player enough resources and enough instruction that he might be able to effectively improve that situation, that issue, if it exists.
"I think that's really our mindset with anybody: If there's a problem, what can we do to help it?" McDaniels continued. "Because we believe in all of our players and they've certainly all been productive for us in one way or another, some more than others, but everyone has a role that's important on the team. I think as a coach, your goal and your job is really to find a way to improve an area of weakness or something that has the ability to get better."
McDaniels added that the ultimate decision on playing time is made by head coach Bill Belichick, but the coaching staff as a whole focuses on the solutions to the problem.
"Those decisions in terms of overall play time, Bill will usually make those decisions, and our goal as a coaching staff is to try to fix any issues that exists and try make our players better by trying to give them an opportunity to fix something," he finished.