Schlosser’s Super Bowl Spotlight
When he’s on his game, LeGarrette Blount is just about unstoppable; a nimble and yet incredibly powerful runner who can just dominate at will. What’s curious about the New England Patriots’ running back though, is that he only brings that type of game now and then. He’s wildly inconsistent, so you never know what you’re going to get.
It’s hard to judge success for a running back by his totals. While these can help, it’s often better to look at the average yards per carry. The higher that is, the better he’s playing. You can also compare these stats across all games, whether he got 30 carries or just three. Not that totals mean nothing, but a guy who gets 25 carries and 60 yards did much worse than a guy who got 40 yards on just four totes.
Right now, after being kicked off of the Pittsburgh Steelers and rejoining the Patriots, Blount looks to be on top of his game. He absolutely decimated the Colts last week, running for 148 yards and three touchdowns. Flat footballs or otherwise, he ran them right into the ground. He did have 30 carries, but that still puts his average at 4.9 yards per touch.
Think he’s the best back in the league? Let’s go back just one week, to the previous playoff game against the Ravens. Blount didn’t score. He ran for just one (one!) yard. Worse than that, he amassed that one yard on three carries, so he was only averaging 0.3 yards per touch.
Now, I understand that situations largely dictate overall production. The Ravens were winning, so New England was forced to throw. In the second half, they didn’t give the ball to a running back even a single time. That comeback was the Tom Brady show. Against the Colts, New England was dominating, so they naturally kept the ball on the ground and fed Blount.
However, you can’t ignore that 0.3 yards per carry. That’s utterly horrible production against a good defense—and the Seahawks are better.
I wouldn’t be so hard on Blount if he had just 15 yards on three carries. He can’t do much about how many times he gets the ball. What he can do, though, is to make sure he’s productive when he gets it. He wasn’t, and that’s on him.
Naturally, part of the equation is the defense. The Ravens are vastly better than the Colts, and I get that. But to see that drastic of a drop-off is still pretty insane. And, like I said, the Seahawks are better. If the Ravens can shut Blount down, so can Seattle.
This isn’t a two-game issue, either, but something you can see throughout the whole year—whether Blount was in Pittsburgh or New England at the time. When you bring up the stats chart, you can find that each week’s average is much different from the last.
Week 3, against the Panthers: Just ten carries, but an average of 11.8 yards per carry, for 118 total.
Week 9, against the Ravens: Ten carries for only 23 yards, for an average of 2.3 per carry.
Week 10, against the Jets: Five carries. Zero yards.
Week 11, against Detroit’s top-ranked rush defense: 12 carries, an average of 6.5 yards per carry, for 78 yards and two touchdowns.
In some ways, the Detroit game is the most telling. That was a great defense—ranked number one in the NFL and better than the Seahawks against the run—and yet he gashed it for one of his highest averages of the season. Against other stout defenses, like the Jets or the Ravens—ranked fifth and fourth, respectively, against the run—he was absolutely shut down.
You can trace this further back than just this year. Remember last year, when Blount faced the Colts in the playoffs? He had an even better day, with 166 yards and four scores. He carried the ball 24 times. The next week, he ran into Denver. He got five carries, and he could only manage six yards.
I know that some of the credit has to go to the defenses, but I’d say that this is clearly an issue with Blount. He is just not the same guy from game to game. That’s what the averages tell you. If he’d averaged the same in both the Indy and Denver games last year, he would have run for 34.5 yards against the Broncos. He wasn’t even close.
I expect the Patriots to try to be physical with a slightly banged-up Seattle defense. They’ll try to run the ball hard, use Gronk on the outside, and impose their will on Seattle. Yes, physicality is what Seattle loves, but the Patriots have to give it back to them in order to win. Seattle eats finesse teams alive, but teams that can pound the rock—like Dallas did this year—have a shot to beat them.
The problem for New England is that they don’t know which LeGarrette Blount is going to show up.
Will it be the guy who thrashed the number one rush defense in the league for more than six yards a carry or the guy who couldn’t gain a single yard on five tries against the Jets? If it’s the former, New England has a great shot to win; if not, Brady’s going to have his work cut out for him just to stay in it.