FOXBORO, Mass. — The last time LeGarrette Blount had a game like this, he was 25 pounds lighter and trucking high schoolers, not grown men.
The New England Patriots running back was “clearly the best player on the field” Sunday, according to his head coach, Bill Belichick, who rarely hands out such effusing praise. But it was absolutely true.
Blount had 189 yards on 24 carries and another 145 yards on two kick returns in the Patriots’ 34-20 win over the Buffalo Bills. His 334 all-purpose yards, a new franchise record, accounted for 57.8 percent of the Patriots’ yards in the game. For those keeping track at home, it’s 206 more all-purpose yards than Jeff Demps, the player New England traded for Blount, has in his entire career.
“He carried the team on his back most of the day,” Belichick said. “He had  yards, I don’t know how much more we had besides that. But I’d say he did the bulk of it, no question. He had some help, but he did a great job. Tremendous.”
Blount said the last time he had a game like this was in high school, when he was 225 pounds, not 250. They even let him return kickoffs back then. He said he probably had a return for a touchdown in that game.
Everyone thought Belichick was crazy when he had Blount return kicks earlier in the season. But those wise to Blount’s running style knew he’d eventually bring one back a long way. No one predicted he’d have two long returns in one game, however.
A performance like Blount’s was needed Sunday, when quarterback Tom Brady wasn’t playing his best football and the defense had so many valuable parts missing. The Patriots didn’t need to waste time moving the ball down the field — Blount got them in field-goal range on returns twice.
Blount already had won the Patriots the time-of-possession battle (32:47 to 27:13). He also scored two of their three touchdowns.
“Yeah, he did a good job running the ball, we did a good job blocking — the guys in front of him did a good job blocking, gave him an opportunity to get started,” Belichick said. “He’s a guy that if you can get him started, he can really make some yards. No back can run when there’s no blocking. He did a great job [and] so did the guys on the kickoff-return team. We haven’t had a lot of big plays in that area during the year, but over the past few weeks, we got a little spark there from Josh [Boyce] and certainly LeGarrette today. Those were huge for us.”
Blount’s performance lessened the need for big plays out of Brady and his receivers. Stevan Ridley had a big game on the ground as well (and he held onto the ball), but the game ball went to Blount.
Blount gave all the credit to his teammates, though, which is respectable for a player who’s in a contract year.
“I wouldn’t say that,” Blount said about Belichick claiming the running back ‘carried the team on his back.’
“On the returns that I had, I didn’t get touched for like the first 30 yards, so I tip my hat off to those guys, the core special-teams guys. We have a Pro Bowler in [Matthew] Slater, so I tip my hat off to those guys. And the offensive line played amazing for both of us, me and Ridley and Shane [Vereen]. The offensive line played amazing, so you can’t ever give them enough credit.”
Blount might have earned himself some money in Week 17. He’s slowly been building toward this game since he earned the starting role in Week 13 after Ridley fumbled in three straight games.
Blount had the best game of his NFL career, and he made his first postseason. Not a bad end to the regular season for the fourth-year pro. And now he gets to move on the start of another season.