Dion Lewis has carried the football more this year than he has in any since entering the league.
It’s taken the 27-year-old just nine games for that to come to fruition.
Lewis’ 72 rushes thus far into the New England Patriots’ 2017 season eclipse his previous high of 64 set in 2016. With that volume, he’s tallied 326 rushing yards, which also checks in as the most of his NFL career, now having surpassed the 283 he put up last campaign.
And he’s gotten into the end zone for three touchdowns on the ground, too, which beats out the two he had in that phase during his ACL-shortened 2015.
- Carries: 72 (64 in 2016)
- Rushing yards: 326 (283 in 2016)
- Rushing touchdowns: three (two in 2015)
Those cumulative numbers might not look like much in contrast with others around the NFL at the Week 11 mark. But each is a mark worth acknowledging when it comes to the former Philadelphia Eagle, Cleveland Brown and Indianapolis Colt.
Each was hit Sunday night at Mile High against the Denver Broncos.
Lewis took 14 rushes for 55 yards and a score – along with a 103-yard kickoff return for another – in what was a 41-16 victory for New England. He did so while Rex Burkhead blocked a punt and caught a touchdown pass. He did so while James White reeled in another six from Tom Brady. He did so while Brandon Bolden gathered two rushes of his own and provided more of the same on special teams. He did so while the Patriots’ leading rusher thus far into November, Mike Gillislee, looked on as a healthy inactive.
No. 33 continued to jump, cut and slash on through the blowout. And the results have Lewis ranking eighth in the NFL in yards per carry – 4.53 – among backs with at least as many carries as him.
He sits in a widespread tie for the fifth-most rushing touchdowns, as well, with a bevy at the position who’ve gotten the ball more.
Staying on the field has certainly helped. It’s put Lewis’ vision, quickness and pad-level power to paper.
APPEARANCES BY SEASON
- 2011: 15 games
- 2012: nine games
- 2013: zero games
- 2014: zero games
- 2015: seven games
- 2016: seven games
- 2017: nine games
The Pittsburgh product got into 15 contests as a rookie fifth-round pick in 2011, then nine in 2012. He missed all of 2013 and 2014 after suffering a fractured fibula and ligament damage, and was traded once and cut twice before arriving in Foxborough on a reserve-futures contract ahead of 2015.
Which makes what Lewis is doing now, in some sense, uncharted territory for him.
Lewis has already played in more games than he has in each of the last four regular seasons. And with that availability, he finds himself on pace to finish 2017 with 128 carries for 579 yards and five touchdowns.
It has required an upswing, considering Lewis didn’t garner double-digit carries through New England’s first four games this season. And he’s gotten one, accounting for 11 carries or more in each game dating back to Oct. 15 against the New York Jets.
CARRIES, RESULTS BY WEEK
- Week 1: two carries, nine yards
- Week 2: four carries, 14 yards
- Week 3: two carries, five yards
- Week 4: four carries, 18 yards, touchdown
- Week 5: seven carries, 53 yards
- Week 6: 11 carries, 52 yards, touchdown
- Week 7: 13 carries, 76 yards
- Week 8: 15 carries, 44 yards
- Week 10: 14 carries, 55 yards, touchdown
Lewis might not be catching the ball as frequently as he did during his inaugural fall with the Patriots, when he compiled 36 receptions for 388 yards and a pair of touchdowns through the air before falling to injured reserve. He might not be as much of a revelation as he was then, either. But a dynamic rusher in the midst of his most productive season Lewis is.
It’s a matter of sustaining it.