Ground game brings bal­ance

Hous­ton can’t af­ford to ig­nore New Eng­land’s sta­ble of run­ning backs.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Howard Ul­man Tex­ans C

FOXBOROUGH, MASS. — Ste­van Ri­d­ley has emerged as a top run­ning back in his sec­ond sea­son. He’s not the only Pa­tri­ots rusher Tex­ans coach Gary Ku­biak has to worry about.

The re­vived New Eng­land ground game, with Shane Vereen and Bran­don Bolden as back­ups, has brought bal­ance to an of­fense that re­lied more heav­ily on quar­ter­back Tom Brady in re­cent years.

Ri­d­ley is third in the AFC with 1,010 yards rush­ing go­ing into Mon­day night’s game be­tween the Tex­ans (11-1), who have the best record in the AFC and have clinched a play­off berth, and the Pa­tri­ots (9-3), who have clinched the AFC East ti­tle.

“He’s a heck of a player,” Ku­biak said. “They’ve had a few dif­fer­ent backs back there. It’s what they do. It’s al­most like any­body they put back there is suc­cess­ful. They play young guys. Tom has got them in the right play all the time. They’re not only run­ning the ball well, but those backs out of the back­field catch the ball ex­tremely well.”

Vereen has rushed for just 173 yards and three touch­downs but has scored on an 83-yard pass play. Bolden,

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