FOXBORO, Mass. — Dion Lewis was the forgotten man in the New England Patriots’ backfield prior to the start of the 2017 season.
Consider him forgotten no more.
Lewis struggled to see the field early on, as he was stuck behind James White and new additions Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee. The fifth-year running back didn’t carry the ball more than four times in the Patriots’ first four games, but it started to turn around in Week 5 when he scored two touchdowns against the Tampa Bay Buccanneers, albeit on just seven carries.
But if you had only watched the Patriots over the past two weeks, you’d probably think that Lewis has been the feature back all along as the electric RB has seen the bulk of the carries with White, Burkhead and Gillislee all nursing injuries.
And he’s relishing his lead role.
“I’m embracing it,” Lewis said after the game. “I like having the ball, I like helping my team win. They counted on me today and I just got to try and make plays and have fun out there.”
On Sunday, Lewis rushed 26 times for 93 yards and a score while also adding six catches for 40 yards and one touchdown in a 26-6 win over the New York Jets.
This comes on the heels of a 24-carry, 123-yard performance in Week 16 against the Buffalo Bills
As the Patriots head for the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the AFC, it looks like Lewis will be New England’s main weapon out of the backfield. And Lewis, for one, isn’t surprised by the success he’s been having.
“I’m a very confident person,” Lewis said. “I know what kind of player I am, and I know what I’m capable of doing so nothing surprises me, it might surprise you guys, but I’ve been doing this since I was six. Running the same way, playing the same style so this is just who I am.”
Lewis, who began his career with the Philadelphia Eagles and suffered a torn left ACL in 2015, has spent his career trying to prove himself and continues to do so each week.
“Some people say I got a little man complex,” Lewis said. “I mean I’m definitely out to prove myself every chance I get. That’s any football player really, you want to prove what kind of player you are, what kind of person you are and just show people what you can do so that’s kind of the approach I take.”
After 17 weeks and 1,017 yards from scrimmage, Lewis has proven he’s a valuable weapon for New England, and Bill Belichick has been impressed with the 27-year-old back.
“Yeah, Dion works really hard,” Belichick said. “He always has. We signed him. He was coming off of not a lot of production and really earned his way. He’s earned everything he’s gotten, like everybody has, but he’s earned it. He’s gotten opportunities, he’s faced some setbacks along the way, but he’s always been pretty resilient.
“He’s had a great attitude,” Belichick continued. “I think I’m certainly happy for it, but everybody is happy for the success that he’s had because of the way he’s worked and the way he competes.”
Lewis’ next chance to prove himself will come in the AFC Divisional Round in two weeks.
Thumbnail photo via Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports Images