FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) - Having been pulled after previous fumbles, running back Stevan Ridley is glad his coaches stuck with him after he gave the ball away in the third quarter of Sunday's game against the Steelers.
As it turned out, it was the right move. Ridley finished strong and New England scored 31 points in less than 12 minutes bridging the third and fourth quarters, winning 55-31 to take a 7-2 record into the bye week.
''The ball was on the ground and that was definitely the low point of my night for sure,'' Ridley said Tuesday. ''For the coaches to stick with me and ride it out, it said a lot.''
Ridley was separated from the ball by one of the game's best - Troy Polamalu - after catching a pass from Tom Brady, and Pittsburgh recovered before going in for the first of two touchdowns that tied the game 24-24.
A likely scenario for getting pulled from the game. It didn't happen.
He wound up running for 60 yards over the rest of the game, capped by 18 yards on three straight plays with a 5-yard run giving him his second touchdown of the game to make it 41-24. He finished with 115 yards on 26 carries - his first 100-yard game of the season.
''For me, it wasn't a time to hang my head, it was a time for me to go out there and try to close the game out because that's what our team needed me to do,'' he said. ''That's really what I did - I just leaned on my offensive line; they had made some creases in there for me the whole night and that was a tough defense we went against.
''I hated (fumbling). Like I said (Sunday), it made me sick. I really think that it motivated me more to go out there and finish the game strong.''
After going the first five games of the season without a touchdown, Ridley has scored in four straight games, with six touchdowns over that span.
He's also been holding onto the ball better.
''My team, everybody's made their mistakes at different times; that's something that I've had to work on and focus on since I've been here,'' he said.
It's no secret that an effective running game takes the pressure off Brady - and everything worked right as Brady, with tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Danny Amendola on the field together for only the second game, put up 432 yards and four touchdowns.
''Fifty-five points is a lot, however we get them, through the ground or through the air,'' Ridley said. ''It was once again another balanced attack and I've said that all year - when we run the ball on the ground Tom always goes out there and does great work through the air, and these receivers have been making some catches, they're also blocking down field. I think we're just playing team ball.
''It's coming back around. People are getting healthy and some of our key players are coming back. I'm liking the direction we've been going, but we still have a lot of work to do and we have to keep improving.''
The Patriots return with a game at Carolina on Monday night, Nov. 18.
''We've shown flashes of what we can do and how good we can be, but that doesn't say anything for the upcoming weeks,'' said Ridley, who added, ''It was definitely a step in the right direction.''
NOTES: S Steve Gregory broke a thumb Sunday and will like miss a few weeks. . The Patriots released WR Austin Collie, who injured a knee in Sunday's win, and signed WR LaQuan Williams. The oft-injured Collie appeared in four games with New England, catching three passes, two of them on the winning drive against New Orleans on Oct. 27. ... New England added RB Cierre Wood to the practice squad. . Patriots coach Bill Belichick, asked about the off-field situation in Miami and whether the Dolphins' troubles makes him appreciate the leaders he has in his locker room, said, ''I definitely appreciate our players. Look, they work hard. They put the team first. They've done what we've asked them to do all year. We've been demanding but they've been responsive. I have a lot of appreciation for our players, no question.'' Belichick, talking about the health scares of coaches Gary Kubiak and John Fox, said he's fine and that ''I don't really plan on doing anything differently.''