For the New England Patriots, it’s been a tough season as they’re without their usual strong offensive weapons and identity. Fortunately quarterback Tom Brady has still led them to four straight wins. For the typically pass-happy Patriots, they have been turning to their running game to get it done.
In last week’s 30-23 win over the Atlanta Falcons, this component enabled the team to pass for 316 yards while overshadowing its 132 rushing yards (31 carries and a 4.3 yard per average carry). Running back LeGarette Blount led the team in rushing with his 9 carries for 64 yards (7.1 yards average carry) and one touchdown.
Brady said of his team’s running game from Week 4 via masslive.com, “I think there’s a lot of efficiency in the run game. All the backs ran hard. That’s a real strength for us.”
Stevan Ridley, the team’s leading rusher with 174 yards to date, got the Patriots’ run-game going last week with a 24-yard run, which kicked off 10 straight running plays. This included carries from three running backs: Ridley (11 carries, 53 yards), Brandon Bolden (six carries, 17 yards) and Blount (nine carries, 64 yards).
Will this be the key for the Patriots to continue winning?
This week, Ridley will be absent for the Cincinnati Bengals game. He has a lower-thigh/knee injury that has not been considered serious but it is bad enough that he missed practice all week.
With him out, it’s likely Blount will see an increased workload and he could be the difference maker.
Lucky for them, the Bengals have been hit with the defensive injury bug. Pro Bowler cornerback Leon Hall and linebacker Vontaze Burfict, the league’s leading tackler at 42, missed practice on Wednesday. Burfict will likely play on Sunday but his teammate Michael Johnson could also be out as he recovers from a concussion. Both could be a little off their game and this could give the Patriots running game some much-needed opportunity.
Is Blount ready for a bigger role on Sunday without Ridley?
He said via the Boston Globe, “Whatever they need me to do, I’m going to do it. No matter if it’s in the third quarter or the fourth quarter, if they need me to close the game, I’m going to do that, and if they need me to start the game, I’m going to do that.”
In the last two games, a lot of his workload came in the second half but this week could be more. And now with a new team trusting him, Blount could add a needed spark to this team’s run game. He’s shown great production before as he rushed for 1,000 yards in his rookie year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2010.
His production fell after that and last season, he had 41 carries for 151 yards. This came as rookie Doug Martin took over the running game for the team.
The Patriots traded for Blount in April and they are now showing once again, they can pick some offensive talent and win. Who knew it would come from a running back?