The 2013 NFL season has been the tale of two teams in Denver and Seattle, but that hasn’t kept New England from having its say. With Bill Belichick and Tom Brady at the helm, the Patriots have rarely refused to be a part of the conversation.
This season, that conversation has been dominated by running back LeGarrette Blount.
Picked up by the Patriots in April, Blount had largely floundered in Tampa Bay before Belichick took him on after trading Olympic silver medalist Jeff Demps. “We felt like we got good value for Blount,” Belichick told Sirius XM NFL Radio's Movin' the Chains (h/t ESPNBoston.com) after the trade. It's a statement that only rings truer with every game.
As Boston.com’s Chad Finn observed, Blount’s number of touchdowns in Saturday’s game equals the number of Demps’s offensive touches in his NFL career.
Against the Colts, Blount proved once again to be one of New England’s most valuable assets this season. He also provided us with five key takeaways to consider looking ahead to next week.
Made a Less-Than-Straightforward Game Look Routine
The final score doesn’t indicate a particularly close victory for the Patriots, but blustery conditions and a late resurgence from the Colts complicated things.
With injuries cluttering the sidelines in Foxborough, Mass., Blount ran for 166 yards and four touchdowns—three of which came in the first 20 minutes—and was instrumental in maintaining New England’s lead in the final quarter.
One of the most surprising takeaways from Saturday’s game is that Brady did not throw a single touchdown pass, further highlighting the role of the Patriots’ running game.
Brady credited the defense for opening up the field, but Blount’s contribution cannot be ignored.
Not Only Carried the Ball, but Also Helped Carry the Team
With the Patriots’ passing game neutralized, Blount and the other backs had to compensate and he posted some impressive stats. In wins this season, Blount has averaged 5.2 yards per carry. On Saturday, he averaged 6.9 YPC.
New England led Indianapolis the entire game, but the Colts closed the gap in the third quarter, coming within a touchdown of the Patriots at 29-22.
Just under two minutes into the fourth quarter, Blount made his move, running for a 73-yard touchdown.
“There's nothing better than seeing that big guy out in the open field,” left guard Logan Mankins told SI.com's Greg A. Bedard after the game. “Man, he grabs another gear from somewhere and he starts moving.”
The Patriots scored another touchdown before the final whistle, courtesy of Stevan Ridley, to hold the Colts scoreless in the fourth quarter.
His Performance on Saturday Shouldn’t Have Been a Surprise
However, Belichick notes another game as the foundation of Blount’s breakout year.
When the Patriots met the Atlanta Falcons in Week 4, Atlanta was one of the more promising teams in the NFC. Blount was instrumental in that game, leading the team with 64 yards on nine carries and notching a 47-yard TD run that helped keep the Patriots in front of a resurgent Falcon team in the fourth quarter.
Since then, Blount’s performance in Atlanta has been something that Belichick has referred to time after time. Patriots.com reports that he touched on that game again after Saturday’s victory over the Colts, saying, “[Blount’s] run that way all year. He ran that way in the Atlanta game."
Though Blount went four weeks without a touchdown in the middle of the season, Saturday’s performance was no anomaly, which should give Patriots fans hope that he can deliver again next week in Denver.
A Master of All Trades, Jack of None
Blount is one of three backs in the Patriots’ rotating system that also includes Ridley and Shane Vereen. What sets him apart is his combination of size, speed and agility, something that Belichick referenced after Saturday’s win.
At 6'0", Blount is tall for a running back, which makes it easier for him to snag passes but exposes him to low tackles. A frequent catch-22 with tall players. By staying low to the ground, though, Blount has neutralized his Achilles' heel.
His secret to breaking tackles? Lowering his pad level. “[Belichick] said the only thing I wasn’t doing right was running with a lower pad level. So I changed that and I started breaking more tackles,” Blount told NESN.com's Doug Kyed following New England's victory on Saturday.
“I wish they would have told me a long time ago. Who knows what could have happened.”
His Performance Is About More Than This Season Now
In Saturday’s game, Blount tied Curtis Martin’s record for the most rushing yards in a postseason game for the Patriots, which Martin has held since 1997.
Additionally, only one player in the NFL has scored more touchdowns in a playoff game than Blount did on Saturday—Ricky Watters of the San Francisco 49ers.
With New England still in the playoffs, Blount is still in the hunt to break Watters and Martin's records.
The Patriots will face off against the Broncos on Jan. 19 in the Mile-High City in a quarterback matchup that has overwhelmingly favored Brady. But that still leaves room for Blount to make inroads in the record books.
“Keep stacking them,” Ridley told ESPN.com after Saturday's game. "I already told LeGarrette, 'Let's go for seven [touchdowns] next week.'"