If you ever complained about the New England Patriots’ kickoff return game, ask yourself this one question:
Would you rather Jeff Demps or LeGarrette Blount?
Demps is yet to play a down in the NFL as he trains for the Summer Olympics. Blount, on the other hand, has done a stellar job as New England’s closer, the running back the team uses to burn clock and put games away.
New England’s decision to part ways with the explosive Demps (and a seventh-round pick) was questioned because the Patriots struggled with kickoff returns for years. Based on Demps’ career at the University of Florida, he could be the solution to New England’s woes.
The 2012 preseason gave fans a glimpse of what Demps could do with the ball in his hands. The explosiveness and elusiveness of the diminutive back sparked dreams of a returner and third-down back repeatedly creating big gains.
Demps’ tease quickly became a disappointment as New England placed him on injured reserve, ending his season before it began. When Demps decided to continue training for the Olympics instead of committing full time to football, the Patriots decided to move on.
But trading Demps for Blount didn't make much sense or seem fair. Blount was a former 1,000-yard rusher, but he fell out of favor with Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano. By the time Blount was traded, he lost the starting job to Doug Martin and rushed for just 151 yards in 2012 while averaging 3.7 yards per carry.
Fifteen games into the season and the trade is lopsided in the Patriots’ favor. When it’s time to put opponents away, it’s Blount’s number that gets called first.
Of Blount’s 583 yards, 256 have come in the fourth quarter, averaging 6.4 yards per carry. Of his five touchdowns, four came in the final stanza. New England is 6-1 in games Blount had at least four carries in the fourth quarter. The more touches he gets, the more likely Blount is wearing out a defense that’s gassed from chasing Ridley and Vereen around for three quarters:
- Against the Buccaneers, Blount had 10 fourth-quarter carries for 54 yards and two first downs while defending a 20-3 lead.
- His 47-yard touchdown run against the Atlanta Falcons helped New England build a lead that the Falcons couldn't come back from.
- Blount’s seven-yard touchdown run helped power a fourth quarter come-from-behind win over the Houston Texans.
Blount started the last three games because of Ridley’s fumbling problem. So far, Blount has churned out 165 yards, averaging 4.7 yards per carry with two touchdowns. Whether Blount remains the starter for the season finale and through the playoffs is unknown. What is known is whatever the team asked of Blount, he excelled.
And if Tom Brady is feeding Blount in the fourth quarter, it’s usually game over.
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