FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – After three weeks of Tom Brady’s record-setting passing, the New England Patriots finally put some balance into their offense.

And much of it came from a surprising source — rookie running back Stevan Ridley.

Ridley, a third-round draft pick from LSU, burst through holes, then outraced defenders, gaining a team-high 97 yards on 10 rushes Sunday in New England’s 31-19 victory at Oakland. He ran 33 yards for a touchdown, and picked up 20 and 25 yards on two other carries.

“It’s backyard football to me,” Ridley said Monday. “I go out there and when I see a hole or see a crease, I’m just hitting it wide open. In the pros it’s small sometimes, but sometimes it’s big, so you just have to go out there and just trust your eyes and trust your vision and let the rest take care of itself.”

In college, he started just nine of 39 games. Then he joined an offense led by a quarterback who was named unanimously as last season’s NFL most valuable player. This season Brady set a league record for yards passing in a three-game stretch with 1,327.

But Coach Bill Belichick wanted more balance.

He got it in Oakland, when the Patriots had 30 runs and 30 passes. They gained 183 yards on the ground and 226 passing, 161 fewer than Brady’s previous low for the season.

Still, Belichick was pleased.

“I thought this was maybe Brady’s best game in terms of some of the checks he made, some of the adjustments, where he went with the ball, his decision-making, his overall management of the game,” Belichick said. “Obviously he’s played well, but I thought he really did a good job (Sunday).”

That was to be expected. What Ridley did wasn’t.

He probably got extra playing time because Danny Woodhead left late in the first half with an apparent left ankle injury and didn’t return. Ridley and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, with 75 yards on 16 attempts, got most of the carries.

“Ridley and Benny both made some guys miss, broke tackles, and took 5-, 10-, 12-yard gains and took them into a little bit more than that,” Belichick said.

The Patriots’ most balanced offense of the season improved their record to 3-1 and caused problems for the Raiders.

“It was huge,” Brady said. “When you see us run the ball in from (the 33-) yard line, that was huge. That’s important. It sets up a lot of things. If (defenses) can’t stop the run, then you’re just going to keep running it and you’re going to control the entire tempo of the game.”

As usual, Belichick provided no update Monday on injured players. Linebacker Jerod Mayo reportedly hurt the medial collateral ligament in his left knee midway through the second quarter and is expected to miss at least several games.

“I’m not going to guess at” how long Mayo will be sidelined, Belichick said.

Gary Guyton, a four-year veteran, is Mayo’s primary replacement.


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