After Sunday’s win over the Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount credited his offensive line for his impressive rushing performance.
One day later, Blount’s coach did the same.
“The big thing that’s contributed to it is that he has had some space to run,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Monday in a conference call with reporters. “There were a lot of plays — too many plays — last year where it didn’t matter who the back was, we just couldn’t get him started, couldn’t get him into any kind of space, couldn’t let the back build up any kind of momentum.
“I think all our backs have the ability to make yards. They’ve all been productive. We’ve seen it in preseason, we’ve seen it through the years with some of these guys, depending on which guy you want to talk about, but we had to give him a chance. You’ve got to give them a chance to have some type of opportunity to operate with some space or momentum, just something. No back can gain yardage when there’s just no place to run. I don’t care how good the guy is.”
Belichick’s comments throw a canopy’s worth of shade at the 2015 Patriots’ offensive line, an injury-ravaged unit that nearly got quarterback Tom Brady killed in the AFC Championship Game.
Though the 2016 edition of the O-line has dealt with both injuries (Nate Solder, Jonathan Cooper, Sebastian Vollmer, Shaq Mason) and unexpected player departures (Bryan Stork, Josh Kline), it has performed admirably through two games, with assists from tight end Martellus Bennett and fullback James Develin.
And as a result, so too has Blount, who ranks fourth among all NFL rushers with 193 yards on 51 carries.
The big-bodied, hard-running back also is tied for third in the league in rushing first downs with 11 and is one of 10 players who have rushed for multiple touchdowns this season. He scored one in each of the Patriots’ two wins.
“We’ve always had a lot of confidence in LeGarrette,” Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “He has had a lot of big games here for us and helped us win a lot of games, and he doesn’t just carry the ball, he did some things in terms of protection. He helped us on the edge with some of their good pass rushers. He has made some plays in the passing game when we’ve given him the opportunity, too.
“LG is always ready to go, practices hard, prepares hard for each week, and whatever we ask of him he embraces his role on our team.”
Blount, who finished with 123 yards on 29 carries in Sunday’s 23-21 win over the Dolphins, could play an even bigger role Thursday night against the Houston Texans if Jimmy Garoppolo’s shoulder injury forces the Patriots to start rookie Jacoby Brissett at quarterback.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images