With today's news that the New England Patriots have re-signed running back LeGarrette Blount to a 1-year deal, I thought it would be a good time to dip back into our list of the Top 20 Patriots Moments of 2015, as Blount is the star of today's agenda.
But first, the list so far:
20. In the span of two weeks, the Patriots make two trades to acquire Keshawn Martin and Akiem Hicks.
19. A decision to kick in OT backfires as the Jets beat the Patriots in Week 16.
18. Otherwordly phenom and greatest player of all time J.J. Watt is held completely ineffective as the Patriots secure a playoff spot against the Houston Texans.
17. Chandler Jones and Akiem Hicks team up for a strip sack touchdown against the Tennessee Titans.
The Number 16 Most Memorable Moment of 2015 is one of those plays that should remind us why there is plenty of reason to be happy that Blount is back in the fold.
16. Stopped in the backfield, LeGarrette Blount sheds tacklers and rumbles for a 17 yard gain against the Houston Texans.
That the Patriots beat the Texans 27-6 is old hat at this point; we've already relived it in our Number 18 Moment, and any time you suggest that J.J. Watt is anything but immortal Texans fans get a little grumpy, so no reason to get back into it now (but in case there are any Texans fans reading it right now: Watt is the man. Seriously. No need to get salty about it). However, lost in the New England passing attack and stifling defense that won the game for the Patriots is sneaky one of the best plays of the year, where running back LeGarrette Blount racked up 17 of the 53 yards he would get on 10 carries before he would end up shutting it down for the year with a hip injury.
Up 7-3 towards the end of the 1st quarter after Tommy B connected with Keshawn Martin in the end zone for a two yard score and Houston answered back with a FG drive engineered almost exclusively by a beautifully thrown 49 yard bomb from Brian Hoyer to Nate Washington, New England started their ensuing drive from their own 18. Up until this point, Blount had carried the ball three times for a grand total of one yard; in order to nullify Houston's pass rush, the Patriots were using a lot of shotgun and fast passes to ensure that Watt didn't tackle Brady so hard that there was nothing left of him but a Tommy B sized hole in the turf. But as the Patriots would soon learn the hard way, a one dimensional team is easier to defend against, so they decided to try and establish the run on this drive. The first play set the tone, a five yard rumble up the middle from Blount to set up a 2nd and 5.
On the ensuing play, the Patriots continued to show a big look, with Blount as the single back and extra linemen along the line. Martin and LaFell were both playing closer to the slot to serve as blockers, with tight end Michael Williams anchoring the left side.
At the snap, Jadeveon Clowney blew right by Williams and was in the backfield almost before Brady handed the ball off to Blount. Watt smoked around Cameron Fleming and was quick to join Clowney. The line of scrimmage was the NE 23, and Clowney got his hand around Blount at the 19 to set up what was looking to be a 3rd and long. However, Blount was able to sidestep Clowney and avoid his grasp as momentum took him further into the backfield, directly into the path of Watt and knocking both men out of the play. Blount was able to get back to the line of scrimmage before he was met by two more Texans, Brian Cushing and Quintin Demps, who whipped him around and threw him to the ground. However, Blount never actually hit the turf, as he landed on Cushing, regained his feet and got right back to moving the ball downfield. As he gained his first positive yard of the play, he was immediately wrapped up by DB Andre Hal, who tried to bring him back down to the ground. Blount was having none of it, however, as he continued to pump his legs and grind out yards. Blount dragged Hal for about 10 more yards, before Whitney Mercilus and Kareem Jackson ran in to help him out and finally take Blount down. 17 yards, first down. The drive would ultimately end in a Gostkowski field goal to put the Patriots up a full score.
On three separate occasions, Blount should have been stopped. He should have been tackled by Clowney. He should have been tackled again by Cushing. And Hal should have brought him down after that. But none of these men were successful as Blount's power and engine were on full display. Unfortunately, the Texans game was the last one that Blount would play in in 2015, but it was at least nice that he capped off his season with one of his most ballsy runs.
It's runs like this one where Blount makes his money; for all of the 2 yard flops, the inability to pick up one yard on 3rd and short, and the slow buildup of momentum that costs him extra distance when a speedier back would likely break for a huge gain, there are big plays like this where the man seems virtually unstoppable and he turns negative yards into positive ones in the best possible way. In the grand scheme of the season, this play is forever lost, overshadowed by the win and the fact that he was injured. But it was a crazy run, a phenomenal individual effort, and just the right combination of skill and luck that makes football football (luck that the Patriots TOTALLY get more than the rest of the league, right? That is when the NFL isn't gift wrapping them wins to keep their cheatycheat coach and cheatycheat Golden Boy happy), and because of that I'm putting it right where it belongs at Number 16.
Check out the run here.