On Pro Football
---- — FOXBORO — As the 250-plus pound behemoth rumbled his way to his second kickoff return of over 60 yards in as many attempts, it became official.
Yesterday was LeGarrette Blount Day at Gillette Stadium.
With driving rain turning the turf in Foxboro into a Slip ‘N Slide and the injury-riddled Patriots needing the victory to clinch a first-round playoff bye, Blount turned in his best day as a New England Patriot -- and the best day of his NFL career.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game like that,” said Pats kicker Stephen Gostkowski. “That game was crazy. Whatever accolades he gets he deserves. He was just a monster out there tonight.”
Blount exploded for a Patriots team-record 334 total yards, rushing for a career-high 189 yards and two touchdowns and returning two kickoffs for 145 yards, setting up two scores as the Patriots clinched the No. 2 seed in the AFC with a 34-20 win over the Buffalo Bills.
Blount’s day shattered the previous New England record for yard in a game (274) set by Larry Garron in 1962, and his 189 rushing yards were not only by far Blount’s best in the NFL (168 yards against Seattle in 2010), but were also the fifth highest total in Patriots history.
“That was crazy,” said Blount. “That was fun out there. I’m not sore or tired at all. I’ve been giving it my all for the whole season, but today I found that little extra and it was just crazy. Now I get to play in my first playoffs.”
Blount ran over defenders like a muscular fullback, made cuts and broke long touchdown runs like a speed back and added the two huge kickoff returns each time Buffalo seemed to be grabbing some momentum.
In summary, he again established himself as the New England Patriots’ most dynamic running back.
No, seriously. With the regular season in the books and the playoffs set to start, the man who the Patriots acquired for basically nothing, who then spent the entire preseason on the chopping block has now stepped up as the Patriots’ go-to running back.
He even earned a postgame hug from Mr. Poker Face himself, Bill Belichick.
Raise your hand if you ever imagined Blount would deliver this kind of production. Be honest Pats fans.
(Writer’s note: I do not have my hand raised).
Lets take a moment to remember how he arrived in New England.
Lowly Tampa Bay gave up on the former 1,000-yard rusher last season, when he carried just 41 times for 151 yards and two touchdowns.
Blount then ended up in New England when he was traded for gold medal-winning track star/part-time football player Jeff Demps, who appeared in just two games for the Buccaneers this season and none for the Pats last year.
Far from a sure bet to make the team, Blount delivered a stellar camp to win a spot on the roster among a crowded group of running backs.
“LG (Blount) has had to battle through a lot of adversity and a lot of doubters,” said fullback James Develin. “But when you fight like LG and run as hard as him on every play, you always have a chance. When his number has been called he has answered big.”
For the season he has rushed for 772 yards, just a yard behind Stevan Ridley (773 yards) for the team lead, and Blount’s seven touchdowns are both a team-best and personal career high.
But no one was quite prepared for yesterday.
He started at running back and carried six of the first seven plays. He had already topped 100 yards by the third possession of the game.
Despite his reputation as — and build — as a power back, when he scored he did so in thrilling fashion, with touchdown runs of 36 and 35 yards. One was the Pats’ first TD of the game, and the second clinched the victory in the fourth.
“He is just such a tough player to bring down,” said Develin. “It’s a lot of fun blocking for a guy like LG because you turn around and see him fighting and carrying three guys for extra yards. He is such a tough guy to bring down. You know he is going to lower his pads and fight for everything. And he has pretty good speed for a guy his size.”
Blount flashed that speed on his two huge kickoff returns.
The first he fielded 5 yards deep in the end zone, faked a knee and broke free for an 83-yard return. One possession later he followed that up with a 62-yard runback. Neither was a touchdown, but each resulted in points for the Patriots.
“We have been waiting 16 weeks for someone to rip off a big return and the big fella finally provided one today,” said special teams ace Matt Slater. “He may not look like a kick returner but he runs hard and and with him back there you know he’s going to break tackles. It’s a big boost to make plays in the kicking game, so it was exciting to see LeGarrette out there rumbling, bumbling and stumbling his way to a few big plays.”
It may have been, by a wide margin, the biggest game of his NFL career, but according to Blount it was not the best game of his life.
“In high school I think I ran for like 450 yards and six touchdowns in a game,” he said with a laugh. “I was about 220 back then. I think I ran a touchdown back, too. Everyone has one of those games in high school. Maybe it was 400 yards.”