FOXBOROUGH — On the Patriots’ first possession of the fourth quarter, LeGarrette Blount had his flashiest play of the day. On the first play of the drive, Blount broke free down the left sideline and would up one on one with cornerback Byron Maxwell. Blount knew he had two options.
“It’s not magic, it’s just instinctive,” the powerful Patriots running back said. “You know, if a guy’s going to hit you in your legs, I’m a big guy. So it’s, you’re going to either have to go over or through him.”
Blount opted to go over Maxwell, tucking his tree-trunk legs up under him like a track star and hurdling the diving defender to complete a 26-yard run, his longest of the game.
“Over” had been the Patriots strategy for much of the game. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo came out throwing darts and completed three touchdown passes in the first half. When Garoppolo left late in the second quarter with a shoulder injury, however, that changed.
With backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett in the game, the Patriots relied on Blount to pound the ball on the ground, and he executed to the tune of 123 yards on a career-high-tying 29 carries.
“Obviously you’ve got to keep playing,” said Blount. “The game doesn’t stop when a guy goes down, so you’ve just got to keep playing the game. They told me they were going to give me the rock a little bit more so just be ready.”
When Garoppolo went down, Blount was one of the first Patriots at his side. He walked with the quarterback, speaking into his ear, as trainers helped him off the field.
“I just wanted to check on him because he’s my quarterback,” Blount said.
Blount then turned his attention to the Dolphins’ defensive line. He gained 98 of his yards during the second half, with Brissett running the offense. Blount averaged 2.2 yards per carry on 14 carries during the first half, but finished with an average of 4.2 yards.
Blount still fumbled for the second straight game (though unlike last Sunday in Arizona, he recovered it) and had a handful of negative plays, but he still came through when everyone knew the Patriots were going to run the ball.
Blount ran for a 9-yard touchdown to cap Brissett’s first full drive, early in the third quarter.
Blount gained 35 yards, including two 9-yard runs, during the Patriots’ final possession (excluding one kneeldown to end it), when the team was protecting a one-score lead. The possession ended in a missed field goal but still took valuable time away from the Dolphins, who were out of timeouts.
“Yeah, they chewed up a lot of time. They chewed up timeouts. They put us in position to make it a two-score game,” coach Bill Belichick said of his offense.
Blount credited the offensive line, which did enough to neutralize a Dolphins front seven that included Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake, Mario Williams, and Kiko Alonso, so that the Patriots could rush for 161 yards.
“They played great,” said Blount. “They’re going to continue to do that I’m sure, and they opened up a lot of big holes for me to run through.”
But left tackle Nate Solder said the holes don’t need to be quite as big when Blount, 250 pounds of power, is the one pummeling through them.
“LeGarrette’s a fantastic back,” said Solder. “We’ve got a lot of those, and if we can do our job and make some holes and give them some opportunities, then we feel really good about that.”
Blount has gotten off to a fast start in 2016. He scored a touchdown as well against Arizona, where he also took on a heavy workload.
If the Patriots are down two of three quarterbacks for the time being, Blount’s role becomes even more important. As it turns out, the best offense may not go over, but through.