FOXBORO, Mass. — LeGarrette Blount has been running like a man possessed since being sidelined for fumbling against the Broncos in Week 12.
Of course, Blount wasn’t the only Patriots running back who was benched against Denver. Stevan Ridley fumbled for the third straight game against the Broncos and has seen his snaps dramatically decrease since. Blount has been the beneficiary of Ridley’s benching.
One of the main aspects of Blount’s game that has improved and helped him play better is keeping his pad level down when carrying the football. At 6-foot, Blount is a taller running back. That height gives opponents more area to hit. Blount’s also one of the heavier runnings backs in the league at 250 pounds. So, running lower has allowed him to take advantage of his size.
“My pad level is one of the places I’ve improved,” Blount said. “Just being able to be out there on passing downs, also. So, that’s a couple things I’ve improved on.
“Bill [Belichick] told me that I should probably run with a lot lower pad level than I usually do because I’m such a big target. So, that’s where I got it from.”
Blount got his first catch of the season on Sunday against the Browns, and he made the most of it. Tom Brady floated a dump off to his running back and Blount took it 32 yards. Blount’s not just known for his power, he’s also a surprisingly elusive back. The combinations of those skills allowed him to get 29 of those 32 yards after the catch.
“I just try to get as many yards as I can,” Blount said. “As many yards as possible. If that comes with running guys over or running around guys, it’s just all the extra yardage that I can get when I have the ball in my hand.”
Ridley had been playing much better than Blount and Brandon Bolden before his fumbling issues reached a critical level. Blount has definitely helped pick up the slack since Belichick placed Ridley in the dog house.
“I feel like since I’ve been getting more opportunities, eventually you gotta improve or else you won’t get them anymore,” Blount said. “Yeah, I feel like I’ve played a little bit better since I’ve played more.”
Blount has seen what happens when he puts the ball on the ground. He has two fumbles on the season, one against Cincinnati and the one against Denver. It appeared Blount let go of the ball against the Broncos when he was struck in the head, but he said that didn’t have anything to do with his fumble.
“It’s part of the job, you know? It’s part of our job, the main part of our job is to keep the ball in our hands,” Blount said. “No matter if we get tackled for a loss, no matter if we get one yard, make sure you come up with the football. And I didn’t come up with the football. And your punishment is to be sidelined.”
The Patriots are lucky to have a deep running back corps with Shane Vereen at the top of the pack lately. Who gets carries behind Vereen depends on who’s running the hardest and who’s holding onto the football. Lately, that’s been Blount.