On Nov. 18, LeGarrette Blount was out of a job. The running back had just been released by the Pittsburgh Steelers, and his career was in doubt.
Blount had left the field the night before while the Steelers-Titans Monday night game was in progress, upset that he hadn’t had a single carry. One source with the Steelers told the NFL Network that the reason for his release was “selfish behavior.”
So, just over two months ago, Blount seemed like the most unlikely of potential Super Bowl difference-makers.
But after he re-signed with the New England Patriots just two days after his release, Blount is heading nto Super Bowl XLIX as one of his team’s biggest offensive stars and a factor in the team’s run to the AFC championship.
Blount carried the ball 30 times for 148 yards in this past Sunday’s AFC Championship Game victory over the Colts. And in the five regular-season games he played with New England late in the season, Blount averaged 4.7 yards per carry, with 281 yards on 60 carries for three touchdowns.
At 6 feet and 250 pounds, the former standout from Oregon has plugged right back into the New England offensive scheme he had been a part of in 2013. That season, he averaged 5.0 yards per carry, collecting 772 yards on the ground and scoring seven touchdowns for Bill Belichick’s team.
When Blount became available, Belichick didn’t hesitate. He re-signed Blount and immediately gave him the ball.
Now the Patriots have a physical, hard-to-bring-down back almost in the mold of Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch. Both defenses in the Feb. 1 Super Bowl in Arizona will have to stop the big backs early to set the tone.
Belichick isn’t usually effusive with his praise, but he’s very happy he has Blount again. Blount had left the Patriots as a free agent after the 2013 season to sign with Pittsburgh.
“You don’t see a lot of guys like him,” Belichick told reporters this week. You just don’t. I thought a couple of cuts he made (against the Colts), the way he can stop, start, accelerate, change directions – for a 250-pound guy or whatever he is, he’s got great vision and athleticism. At times he looks like a small back, but he’s not. He’s a big guy and he’s a hard guy to tackle.”
The way Blount has played with the Patriots led to some criticism of the Steelers’ decision to release him, based on the fact that Pittsburgh could have used him when No. 1 back Le’Veon Bell was unavailable for its playoff game against the Ravens.
But this week, Steelers president Art Rooney II said he has no regrets.
“I think we made the decision for the right reasons,” Rooney told ESPN.com. “Not going to worry about it too much. We just have to make sure that we make a better decision this year and fill that position with someone we’re comfortable with and who will be a good fit.”
Now Blount has a chance to win a Super Bowl ring. He’s gone from unemployed to a potential Super Bowl star. Like Belichick, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is grateful Blount is on their side again.
“He’s tough to bring down and has the ability to make people miss in the hole, which I think is a unique trait for a bigger back,” said McDaniels this week. “Obviously he played well (vs. the Colts), really carried a big load for us and made a huge impact. … We’re very happy to have him here with us.”