There were several standout performances over the weekend in the four divisional round playoff games, but the two that stood out the most were the displays but forth by New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount and Seattle Seahawks star back Marshawn Lynch. It wasn’t an easy call snubbing the many players who had great performances in playoff games, and it was especially difficult to pick between Blount and Lynch. However, Blount’s incredibly hard-nosed rushing and higher yardage total than Lynch’s carried the day for me, but it was by no means an easy choice.
The Patriots offense is as balanced as it gets, and one of the most apparent things about the remaining four playoff teams is that not only are they the four best teams in the league, but they also have incredibly balanced offenses. With Tom Brady throwing passes and a deep stable of backs lining up behind him, there is little doubt that the Patriots offense has oodles of balance that both Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick do an excellent job of capitalizing on. And ever since Rob Gronkowski tore his ACL and MCL, it seems like the Patriots balance on offense has swung the running game, where two power backs rule.
Both Brandon Bolden and Shane Vereen are at least solid backs, with Vereen’s pass-catching ability and explosiveness making him a crucial piece of the Patriots offense. However, Vereen helps the passing game significantly more than he helps the running game, as the Patriots are shoving a steady diet of LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley down the throat of the opposition. When Ridley isn’t fumbling, he’s clearly the Patriots most talented back, but Blount isn’t far behind and has always had talent; he just needed to escape Greg Schiano, who had a completely irrational hatred of Blount, in order to get back on track.
He’s been improving as the season as wore on, and that culminated in a monster performance in the team’s first playoff game. Although Ridley had a solid game and ran for two touchdowns, Blount was even more impressive with a ridiculous 166 rushing yards and four touchdowns on just 24 carries for an average of 6.9 yards per carry. I’d also like to mention that Blount averaged a rushing touchdown on each of his six carries and was responsible for 32 fantasy points for those that still play fantasy football in playoff leagues.
Those are ridiculous numbers, and Blount did almost all of his damage in between the tackles. I mean, it was just ridiculous watching him shed off contact, and he’s running with a lot lower pad level than he used to. This has led to him using his frame better, and that’s a huge credit to Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears for that. With his extremely sneaky agility and explosiveness (he had a big 73-yard TD after getting an awful missed tackle from Colts safety LaRon Landry), the better use of his frame in becoming a better power back could lead Blount to become a big-time feature back in this league and fulfill on his talent. He’s set to hit free agency, and the Patriots will definitely hope to keep a guy who even took a paycut to play for the Pats. But they might not be so lucky, since other teams have certainly taken notice of a guy who is playing like a star at the right time.