Why All The Hate For LeGarrette Blount?

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Between the fascinating head coach and the superstar quarterback and the endless string of entertaining football games, there’s a lot to observe here in New England on a daily basis. And part of that observation process involves getting a general gauge of how fans feel about certain players, and how the media feels about them too.

And having observed this situation for several years now, I feel comfortable in concluding that a large majority of people cannot stand LeGarrette Blount.

In fact, it seems like a lot of people hate him.

It’s a strange condition, this, the visceral hate for a running back who’s contributed to a Super Bowl victory and has been an undeniably useful player for the local team. Yet it exists.

On what felt like half of Blount’s 22 carries Sunday night, I know that my own Twitter feed as well as my incoming text messages were filled with an anti-Blount sentiment. It typically hinges on people being tired of seeing him, or believing he’s slow and fat, or getting tired of watching him plow into the offensive line and fall on his face 10 times per game.

So I’m not arguing against a straw man here, look only to Michael Felger, aka the straw that stirs Boston sports’ drink, for the embodiment of The Anti-Blount Movement. On Tuesday’s Felger & Massarotti show, when guest Greg Bedard listed Blount as an “Up” in the “3 Up/3 Down” segment, Felger responded thusly: “HA! Oh God! LeGarrette Blount!”

It’s not uncommon. You remark on Blount doing something well, you’re typically met with a hearty belly laugh. His existence is routinely mocked.

But here’s the thing, people: LeGarrette Blount is good. It’s asinine that it’s even up for debate.

Is he great? No. He’s not Emmitt Smith or Barry Sanders or LaDainian Tomlinson. He’s not on a path to end up enshrined in Canton for the rest of eternity. But aside from the Minnesota Vikings (and perhaps the Indianapolis Colts), which teams currently employ a future Hall of Fame running back?

Fact is, LeGarrette Blount is very good at what he’s good at. And what he’s good at is, in the eloquent words of Marshawn Lynch, running through a nice fella’s face. (OK, that’s slightly less colorful than what Marshawn actually said.)

He may not be the fastest running back in football, and he may not always find the creases the smaller backs may find, and he may be paradoxically bad at converting short-yardage runs, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that he possesses a very rare skill: He can make opposing defenses quit.

Three times in his first two years with the Patriots, he made the opposing defense give up. He romped for 189 yards and two touchdowns in Week 17 of 2013 against the Bills, and he followed it up with a 166-yard, four-touchdown performance against the Colts a couple of weeks later. The following winter in the AFC Championship Game (during which nothing else notable happened regarding the Patriots), he rolled for another 148 yards and three more touchdowns against that same Colts defense that knew it had no chance of stopping him.

The reaction to these games being mentioned is typically, “Well, he beat up on some bad rushing teams in three games. Big deal.”

Well, how about this: Among running backs in Patriots franchise history with at least 400 rushing attempts, LeGarrette Blount ranks first in yards per carry.

First.

As in, nobody in Patriots history has ever averaged more yards per carry than LeGarrette Blount.

He’s carried the ball an even 400 times, and he’s averaged 4.57 yards per carry. Corey Dillon averaged 4.2. So did Kevin Faulk and Shane Vereen. Curtis Martin averaged 4.0. Sam Cunningham and Antowain Smith averaged 3.9.

Obviously, those players had many more carries than Blount, which generally works to bring down the average, so simply ranking first all time in that one statistic doesn’t necessarily make Blount better than the aforementioned running backs. It does, however, speak to his usefulness and effectiveness.

(He’ll move into the top 10 in the franchise list of rushing touchdowns this season, and he’s already 20th on the rushing yard list, despite just 34 games with the team.)

While nobody enjoys watching Blount plow into a pile of bodies and fall forward for a gain of a yard, the man tends to run with purpose. A 250-pound bowling ball running directly into opponents’ chests all day tends to wear them down, and if that big fella hits the second level of the defense with a full head of steam, then you ought to bust out your popcorn, as the defense will more often than not be full of men who would rather dive away from Blount instead of putting themselves in harm’s way.

Just look at Patrick Peterson, who’s no small man, on Sunday night. With the game on the line, he wanted no part of Mr. Blount.

LeGarrette Blount bypasses Patrick Peterson. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

LeGarrette Blount bypasses Patrick Peterson. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

To harp on Blount’s average speed (average for an NFL running back, mind you, which is still fast) is to overlook his unique skills — such as the ability to carry an entire football team on his back for five full yards to score a touchdown.

It is to overlook his ability to pick up 12 yards after first contact.

It is to ignore his obvious athleticism.

To call him flat-out “slow” is to just be foolish.

He may not be Marshawn Lynch, but he has authored a ridiculous touchdown run that looks strikingly similar to that famed “earthquake-causing” run in Seattle a few years back.

Who, besides Marshawn Lynch, turns that play into a touchdown?

Nobody.

Those are, of course, the highlights. But what about those groan-inducing two-yard plunges up the gut that seemingly gets everyone in the region up in arms?

Let Bill Belichick explain.

“Some of those two and three-yard gains – I know they don’t look like much on the stat sheet and even in the game they don’t look like much – but there’s a big difference between second-and-7 and second-and-10. It just makes the down more – makes the next two downs – a lot more manageable,” Belichick said this week. “A lot of those tough yards that he got were important yards. Yeah, they’re not record-setting plays but they’re important yards in the management of the game, particularly against a team like Arizona that you can’t just go back there and throw the ball 50 times against them. I don’t think that’s the way to play them, so being able to keep the chains [moving], keep the down and distances on second and third down better, or even on second down if we didn’t have a good first-down play to be able to get to third-down and manageable range.”

And then, of course, after a night of wearing down the defense, came the play that changed the game — the 13-yard run on third-and-11. That play by Blount turned a 53-yard field-goal attempt into a much more manageable 32-yarder for Stephen Gostkowski, scoring what proved to be the game-winning points.

The fumble earlier in the night was no doubt a bad one. Lapses like that can lose games. But the mark of a good player is when he atones for his mistakes. Blount certainly did that.

There comes a point in this observational practice when you have to throw your hands up and accept things for the way they are. You can only write or talk about a topic so much before you have to stop the fight and let the conventional wisdom rule the day.

But with Blount, the story should change. Is he the perfect running back? Nope. But on this team, in that role, he just might be the perfect man for the job.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

Comments

One Comment

  1. godzilla502 says:

    I was one of those that tweeted Mike and said I didn’t understand why they kept calling Blount’s #. Mike is not wrong, but he’s also not right.

    Blount is big & strong and when he gets going, he’s difficult to bring down. Only… he rarely gets going.

    Blount is effective when the O-Line opens up huge holes. Not small holes. the holes need to be massive. Blunt has, IMO, poor vision. He runs straight for the hole and if he gets that big body moving, YES, he’s tough to bring down.

    Sunday night was a perfect example. He had 22 carries for 70 yards. Two of those carries were for 21 yards (his 8 yard TD run and his 13 yard 1st down run). So in the other 20 carries he had 50 yards.

    And the idea that he gets stronger as the game goes on and wears folks down… was not evident Sunday night. He had 10 carries in the 1st half for 37 yards and in the 2nd half he had 12 carries for 33 yards. On 4 carries in the 4th quarter, he gained a total of 7 yards, and that includes the 13 yard run for a 1st down.

    1. john says:

      Felger is the master of making a point that comes between wrong and right. As long as you can’t prove him wrong, he’s right in his own mind. He does this more often than making straw men.

  2. jon1498 says:

    Michael, with Blount it’s not about slow and fat. He doesn’t have real big play ability. He’s a one-trick pony. If he’s on the field, you stack the box. He’s not going to beat you to the outside ever. He’s going to run between the tackles and try to bowl you over. That’s why 50% of his runs are for 2 or less yards. He then gets 2 or 3 holes, or runs over a linebacker once or twice a game and gets chunk yards. You can’t honestly sit there and have watched the Cardinals games and said you “felt” as if Blount had 70 yards? I watched the game and was amazed to see that he had 70. Felt like every run was for no gain or a loss (again because he’s a one-trick pony). I’ve no problem with him as a goalline/short yardage specialty back.

    Most fans, myself included, would like to see a back in New England that had big play potential. Dion Lewis is the epitome of that. He can catch the ball, is explosive, can line up outside, can pass block, can run short yardage and can make defenders miss and break off a 30 yard run. Blount can only run between the tackles.

    Answer this and you’ll maybe see where I’m coming from (I won’t speak about others you refer to in this article, only myself and my opinion): Is the Patriots offense more dynamic with Dion Lewis in the game, or LeGarrette Blount?

    I don’t think that’s even a hesitation.

    1. Tony Dungy said it best, ‘the best ability is availability’. Lewis can’t stay on the field.

  3. David Denelle says:

    The answer is “Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti”.

  4. Dale49 says:

    Jon and Godzilla, stop listening to Felger and Mazz. They know noting about football and clearly neither do you.

    “He’s a one-trick pony. If he’s on the field, you stack the box.” Yeah, the pats are really afraid of teams stacking the box because their passing attack is garbage right…

    1. jon1498 says:

      My suggestion: don’t make assumptions you can’t back up. I know plenty about football. You can choose to not believe that and degenerate into a two-year-old’s mentality and insult me simply because I have a different opinion than you, but it doesn’t make me any less right.

      Blount fits this system. But he’s boring. He is a one trick pony. When was the last time he lined up in an offset I and ran to the outside beating a linebacker out there for a 25 yard gain? When was the last time he lined up next to the QB and offered a wham block? When was the last time he chipped and went out for a passing route? When was the last time he lined up on the line with a linebacker opposite him and ran a route? He’s on the field, he’s in single back or with a fullback and running between the tackles. Often for negative or one yard. Again, that’s what the Patriots WANT in him.

      All I’m trying to say is that having a back capable of making something happen (like Lewis) is better for strategy than someone whom you know is about to run between the tackles.

      No one said their passing attack is garbage. But Blount is so bad at everything else that when he’s on the field and the opponents stack the box, the QB can’t even check into a pass to take advantage because he can’t block or run a route. It’s predictable in an offense that is otherwise completely bereft of predictability.

      But I don’t know anything about football, so….

      1. Dale49 says:

        HAHA oh right, I forgot Dion Lewis is a much better blocker than Blount.

        Blount has averaged 4.5 yards per carry in his career on almost 900 attempts (4.3 in 2015).

        Dion could never be an every down back and he’s out for the year anyway so your comments are pointless.

        Playing Madden and listening to Phil Simms and Chris Colinsworth’s commentary doesn’t make you an expert on football. Typical Felger and Mazz fan…

  5. Bill Docos says:

    I think this is as dumb a commentary as I have ever heard. I have never heard that Blount was hated. Some say he’s a one trick pony but that trick just happens to be Blount force trauma. To compare him with Lewis or other RB’s is dumb! It would be like comparing Edelman with Moss they’re both WR’s but their game is completely different. What is wrong with Sports reporting in NE? you people are always trying to stir the pot and let me just say that in no friggin way is “Michael Felger, aka the straw that stirs Boston sports’ drink” I step over him and his comment like I avoid stepping in dog sh!t. Blount is a Hero on this team and to me. How dare you pukes try driving a wedge in this team by using him. The only thing wrong with the NE team is the idiots they let report about them!

  6. Robert Skelton says:

    Are you questioning Blount or trying to backdoor Belechick. Go ask Bill face to face why he is still around or are you afraid of the scowl. Blount must be doing something right or he would not be there. To me, for whatever reason he seems to fit the system at a cheap salary price. I was surprised when they re-picked him up from the Steelers. I used to question the comings and goings but 6 Bowls and 4 Rings later and numerous near misses I am just enjoying the ride.

    1. jon1498 says:

      He has been asked that question. And he’s given the same answer than Hurley has said here. Blount fits this system. He fits what they want their backs to do. They want him to get the short, tough yards. Period. He’s always had a big, bruising back to do it. The issue is he’s their feature back. He shouldn’t be. That’s why this team is better with Lewis (or Faulk, Vereen, Woodhead, etc). I’d love to add White to the list, but he’s the pass catcher only. Bad blocker, bad runner.

      1. Robert Skelton says:

        Well all I know is we got our money’s worth this past Sunday after Jimmy G went down. 92 yards and a touchdown. had a fumble late after doing a lot of work. Big part of the offense in the second half when we were forced to run the 2nd half.

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