Everyone knows, understands, and appreciates when New England Patriots LeGarrette Blount receives the handoff and barrels around the end of the formation, bowling over defenders and picking up yards for a first down. It means that Bill Belichick is declaring the game over and Blount is playing the role of closer, like Keith Foulke, Jonathan Papelbon, or Koji Uehara.
Blount has 27 carries for 124 yards and 2 touchdowns when given the ball in the 4th quarter while up by a touchdown or more. That ranks 2nd in carries (behind 29 carries for the Panthers Jonathan Stewart) and 2nd in yards (behind 158 yards by the Bills Karlos Williams).
The goal of these drives is to drain as much time off the clock as possible, while either flipping the field position or putting more points on the board. It turns out that the Patriots are one of the best in the league at these clock killing drives.
There have been 64 drives this season of 4+ minutes in the 4th quarter by a winning team. The Patriots have had six, trailing only the Cardinals with seven. These drives average over 10 plays, which means that teams are controlling the ball when they need to keep away from the opposition.
Of the Patriots six drives, four resulted in touchdowns (2 against the Jets, 1 against the Jaguars, 1 against the Dolphins) and two have led to punts (Steelers, Washington).
Blount has carried the ball 15 times for 44 yards and a touchdown over these clock killing drives. What might be a surprise is that Danny Amendola has the second most touches on these drives with seven receptions for 67 yards, five of which resulted in a first down or a touchdown, and four of those game on third down.
Julian Edelman (6 receptions, 86 yards, 1 touchdown) and Rob Gronkowski (6 receptions, 60 yards, 1 touchdown) have also been reliable, while James White also has six touches of his own for 26 yards.
Tom Brady has been nearly flawless in these drives, going 29/36 (80.6%) for 311 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions for a 130.4 passer rating.
Overall, the Patriots have finished 12 of their 18 drives in the 4th quarter in scoring position or having drained 4+ minutes off the clock. They've converted those drives into 6 touchdowns, 2 field goals, 2 turnover on downs to avoid running up the score, a punt that led to the Steelers final garbage time drive, and then another punt play against Washington where the Patriots took a voluntary delay of game penalty instead of attempting a 50-yard field goal.
Of the six failed drives, one was a fumble against the Bills, one was a three and out against the Dolphins with James White getting three carries to bring the clock to a little over a minute left in the game, one was a poorly executed three and out against the Steelers, and then the final three came against the Colts.
The Patriots offense has been able to milk the clock, score, or tilt the field at will during crunch time this year, thanks to the legs of Blount and the arm of Brady.