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Monday, 30 December 2013 22:53

Buffalo Bills vs New England Patriots: LeGarrette Blount's A "Mudder"

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LeGARRETTE BLOUNT IS A THOROUGHBRED IN THE RAIN

Definition - Mudder: "A racehorse that runs well on a wet or muddy track" 

Last Sunday, LeGarrette Blount was a "mudder" of huge proportions. He was the difference maker in the New England Patriots 34-20 win over the Buffalo Bills in a driving rain.

Blount did something no one else had ever done in the NFL...he became the 1st player in NFL history to have 140+ (145) kickoff return yards and over 100 (189) rushing yards in the same game. He had TD runs of 36 yards (1st quarter) & 34 yards (4th quarter) His kick-off returns of 83 yards in the 3rd quarter & 62 yards in the 4th both followed Buffalo TDs and blunted (a little pun there) their comeback attempts. He accounted for a Patriot franchise record 334 all-purpose yards Sunday

With those accomplishments he has been named the AFC Offensive player of the week.

BELICHICK GIVES CREDIT

Blount has been an assett all season. On Sunday he stepped-up his game and it was recognized by Bill Belichick.

"Obviously it was a tremendous game by LeGarrette [Blount]," Belichick said. "Clearly the best player on the field, he had a tremendous day."

He added "he carried the team on his back most of the day. He had [334] 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."

If you didn't know, it hasn't been that way throughout his football career.

BLOUNT'S COLLEGE REPUTATION

Blount's college reputation was spotted at best. In 2008 he commited to the Oregon Ducks after two years rushing for over 1,000 yards in junior college. In his 1st season with the Ducks he ran for over 1,000 yards and scored a school record 17 touchdowns.

Despite the statistics, he clashed several times during the season with his head coach, earning a suspension for the first quarter of a November loss to the Cal Golden Bears for "not following team rules."

After the opening game of the 2009 season, Blount was suspended again. This time for punching an opponent and angrily confronting fans. Though the suspension was announced to be for the remainder of the season he was eventually reinstated after missing eight games.

BLOUNT AS A BUCCANEER

Originally signing as an undrafted free agent by the Tennessee Titans, he was taken by the Tampa Bay Bucs when the Titans tried to slip him through the waiver wire in 2010.

On October 31, 2010 he had his breakout game, accumulating 120 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns on 22 carries. He also chipped in 9 receiving yards in the Buccaneers' 38-35 victory at Arizona. One of the highlights of the game was a late game 43-yard run in which Blount hurdled  Kerry Rhodes.

By the end of his rookie season Blount had played in 13 games and accumulated 1007 rushing yards, the most by a rookie in the 2010 NFL season. Blount became the second undrafted running back in NFL history to accumulate 1000 yards in his rookie year.

After injuries cut his playing time in 2011, he expressed his unhappiness when Tampa drafted RB Doug Martin in 2012. Injuries again limited his playing time, giving Tampa the opportunity to see how talented Martin was.  As for LeGarrette, the general opinion in Tampa was, despite his talent, he was more trouble than he was worth.

BLOUNT BECOMES A PATRIOT

When the Patriots acquired Blount in April from Tampa for Jeff Demps and a 7th round draft pick it was treated as a "minor" deal. In fact, many Patriot followers were sorry to lose Demps, despite his statement that running track was his #1 priority, with pro football 2nd. Many felt Demps' speed offered more long term potential.

After the trade was made, Blount became a perfect citizen in his 1st season with New England. He stepped into the lead runner role when Stevan Ridley fell into disfavor after losing 4 fumbles at critical times and has been consistant since taking over that role.

His performance Sunday moved him to just 1 rushing yard behind Ridley (773 to 772) despite 25 less carries. He caught Ridley in rushing TDs (7) after scoring twice against the Bills. His 5.0 yards per rushing attempt is tops among the teams many backs

HOW THE PATRIOTS WILL BE IMPACTED IN THE PLAY-OFFS

In their final two games the Patriots have rushed the ball with authority. This has led to defenses having to change their philosophy.

The Patriots have actually run more than passed in both games (39-24 Sunday & 34-26 against Baltimore). In the past few years New England has had the reputation as a "soft" offense. If you could stop Tom Brady the team couldn't make up for it on the ground.

As Blount said after Sunday's win:

"I feel like we had to man up and play tough football. You know with the conditions, whoever played better football physically was going to be the winner."

Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels has had little confidence in the run and, in previous games,  would abandon it too quickly. Other teams knew this, therefore had no respect for that part of the offense. Hopefully, the past two games have opened McDaniels' eyes to what the running game can mean.

With a questionable defense, control of the game will be imperative during the "real" season. The combination of Blount, Ridley & Shane Vereen will force defenses to adjust for the potential run or screen pass...meaning more time for Brady in the pocket. This will only happen if you continue to trust the running game.

DON'T EXPECT MIRACLES

Despite Blount's performance Sunday, you can't expect anywhere near that production from him regularly. He would still be in Tampa if he could do that consistently. A solid game from all three running backs, however, is a realistic expectation.

If the Patriots control play in the play-offs there is no reason to believe they can't still be on the field when February rolls around. If Brady is forced to pass 40-50 times a game, that probability goes down considerably.

TIP OF THE CAP TO PATRIOT FANS

Any Patriot fan who attended Sunday's game deserves a huge "Tip-O'-The-Cap" and a medal for gallantry. Snow games are bearable...in fact can be fun.  Cold games are uncomfortable, but you can dress to offset the temperature...and they give you the chance to cuddle. 

There is absolutely no redeeming value to a cold, damp rainy game. It all starts when you try tailgating. You can't get warm because you are soaked. If you try to eat your food gets soggy. You sit or stand during the game waiting for it to end! When the game is finally over, you have to slosh your way back to your car and sit in wet clothes until you finally get home.  Winning helps, but let's face it...YUCK describes the experience.

I can be followed on Twitter @SnowdonBob and welcome your comments