It was a picture-perfect ending for LeGarrette Blount.
The Patriots running back broke off a 41-yard scoring run that broke the Texans' will and spirit early in the fourth quarter of Thursday's 27-0 shutout.
After cruising down the left sideline, leaving a stable of Texans in his wake, the beefy tailback flung the football and headed to the back of the end zone and posed for a photo with the Minutemen.
It was Blount's signature play of the night and capped a 24-carry, 105-yard, 2-touchdown effort. After the game, Blount deflected praise the way he deflected tacklers. The seven-year veteran pointed to rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett, the receivers, and the offensive line as big keys to the victory, which improved the New England's record to 3-0.
"A lot of moving parts have to come together for us to be able to pull off a win like this,'' he said.
Right now, Blount is about the biggest moving part in the Patriots offense. The 6-foot, 250-pounder rushed 53 times for 228 yards and 3 TDs in a five-day span. For context, Blount didn't take his 53d handoff in 2015 until Week 8.
"We really needed it in both games,'' coach Bill Belichick said Monday.
With Tom Brady suspended for the first four weeks, Blount's contributions have been vital, as he's helped ease the transition to quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Brissett.
Having a viable, veteran threat in the backfield has prevented opponents from bringing extra pressure, because Blount must be accounted for.
That Blount is off to the best start of his career and leading the NFL in rushing (75 carries, 298 yards) has to be considered a big surprise even for the most optimistic of Patriots fans.
He had just one 100-yard game last season and was placed on injured reserve after suffering a hip injury in Houston Dec. 13. His return to New England was no sure thing, but he signed a one-year deal in April and joined a crowded cast competing for carries.
In addition to holdovers Dion Lewis, James White, Brandon Bolden, Joey Iosefa, and Tyler Gaffney, the Patriots brought in veteran free agent Donald Brown and undrafted rookie D.J. Foster.
White, Bolden, and Foster have a combined 10 carries and 46 yards this season.
Blount, who arrived at camp looking trimmer and in good condition, outlasted all his competitors to seize the starting role. He has continued his strong play through the early part of the season.
Blount is a power runner first and foremost, but he does have deceptive open-field speed. He's not always the quickest starter, but he has excellent stamina, and though he'll get dropped for losses, he almost always gets stronger as games go on. He can wear out a defense in the fourth quarter — with Exhibits A and B being the wins over the Dolphins and Texans.
"He's a big back that has very good quickness, and feet, and balance, and speed for that size,'' said Belichick. "So, we just kind of always feel like if we can just get a hole, get him started, get him going, that he has a lot of ability to make yards on his own.
"He has broken tackles. He has gotten some good, tough yards for us. Hopefully we continue to do that.''
The fact that Blount was able to string together the 100-yard games with minimal rest was particularly impressive to offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who has made Blount a big part of the game plans this season.
"LG's had a number of games in his career here with us that he's really done a nice job of carrying the ball a few times and to be able to do that four days apart, that's always a tougher issue,'' said McDaniels. "When you carry it a lot, and then come back and do it in the same week, four days apart, that's not easy to do.''
McDaniels credited Blount's preparation — both physically and mentally — as keys to his success.
"He's does a good job of taking care of his body and trying to get himself ready to go each week, [learning] the game plan and getting ready to go when his number is called,'' said McDaniels.
If Blount keeps running the way he has, expect McDaniels to have that number on speed dial.