Blount gives Pats a new blueprint

"If you can get the guy through the line of scrimmage and then break a tackle or make a guy miss, that's where you get the long ones," Belichick said. "Good backs do that. They make some of those yards on their own -- step to the line, the backs and the tight ends get them started, get them some space and let them do their thing."

Blount was doing his thing, alright. The bruising back exhibited glimmers of his explosiveness in wins over Atlanta and Buffalo, but in his first career playoff game he was the most dominant player on a field that included some noteworthy candidates.

While Blount's national Q rating took a quantum leap, his friend Ridley experienced his own resurrection. Ridley's fumble woes left him on the sideline for huge chunks of this season, but on Saturday, Ridley nestled the football tightly to his body, held on to it "'til death do us part" and punched his way into the end zone twice. He finished with 14 carries for 52 yards.

"Keep stacking them," Ridley exclaimed. "I already told LeGarrette, 'Let's go for seven [touchdowns] next week.'"

Each rushing yard proved to be significant because young Luck, whose lanky frame and 19th-century beard afforded him the look of an odd combination between Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Schrute's cousin Mose from the beet farm, exhibited flashes of brilliance, often in the face of the cranky elements. His back-to-back throws to T.Y. Hilton (for 47 yards) and then a 35-yard strike to  LaVon Brazill for a touchdown were excellent examples of his startling abilities. Yet Luck limped off with four interceptions and was limited by New England's defense to just one rush for 5 yards. Turnovers in the playoffs almost never translate into wins.

Blount, meanwhile, finished with 166 yards (a 6.9 yards-per-carry average). Blount submitted a 1,000-yard season in his rookie campaign in Tampa Bay, but his occasional immaturity and the team's decision to draft Doug Martin made him expendable there.

His former Bucs teammate Aqib Talib insisted Saturday night that Blount has always been a quality back capable of breaking the game open.

"He's the same guy," Talib said. "I saw him do this all the time in Tampa Bay. You guys just didn't see it because the games were always blacked out there."

Blount is best known for a regrettable college incident at Oregon in which he sucker punched Boise State player Byron Hout. An outraged Chip Kelly originally suspended Blount for the rest of the season before eventually reducing it to eight games.

That blemish will permanently stick to him like an unwanted tattoo, but even during those dark days, he said, he still envisioned an NFL career of prosperity.

"I always thought it could happen," Blount said. "There wasn't a doubt in my mind I was going to get a chance. It all worked out."

There will be more chances going forward. As Blount himself explained, the Patriots' stable of backs includes a rotating system in which he, Ridley and Shane Vereen share snaps. The running game has provided healthy balance to an offense decimated by injuries to its receivers. Kenbrell Thompkins was the latest casualty to be carted off on Saturday (he left with a head injury), and based on the NFL's new concussion protocol, it's hard to imagine him being available next Sunday.

So you know what that means: Run, LeGarrette, run!

Why not?

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