FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — LeGarrette Blount was like the bull let out of the barn on a warming day in April to run and run. Except Sunday’s cold, hard rain of December was no one’s idea of a spring day.

Blount would beg to differ. “I like to run in the rain.” He let a smile spread over his face. “I had fun running in the rain.”

So much fun, Coach Bill Belichick and Blount shared a hug after the Patriots beat the Buffalo Bills 34-20 in the final game of the regular season. The taciturn coach even offered praise for the player over the team, something he is loathe to do.

“(Blount) carried the team on his back most of the day,” said Belichick, and he was trying to contain a grin. “Look, he had a tremendous day.”

The win assured the Patriots of a first-round bye in the playoffs. They can rest aching and bruised bodies. They can heal while an opponent must play.

The Patriots can do all this because one big running back didn’t mind throwing his body around.

Blount gained 334 all-purpose yards – 189 rushing and 145 more returning kickoffs.

“I think I had a better day in high school,” said Blount. “Isn’t that what everybody says?”

But after four seasons in the NFL, never a better day than this. He gave credit to his offensive line. He credited the faith his coaches had in him. He thanked his lucky stars that the soaking ran started maybe an hour before the late afternoon kickoff and didn’t stop. Big men run better in sloppy weather.

“For a lot of guys it was hard to keep their footing. For me it was a mindset. I knew what was at stake. The linemen opened up the holes and I knew where I was going.”

Blount doesn’t mind absorbing a hard hit if he can gain 5 more yards. Sunday he was a big man with a big head of steam. Big men don’t usually get the assignment to run back kickoffs. That’s left to the smaller, more elusive running backs with the quick-twitch muscles and the ability to switch directions suddenly.

“I’ve got deceptive speed,” said Blount.

He was still having fun. He was asked how much he weighs.

“Don’t know. I haven’t stepped on a scale lately.”

He’s listed at 250 pounds carried on a 26-year-old, 6-foot body. Either running on the turf or standing in front of his locker, he looked faster and lighter.

“Whatever the program says,” said Blount. “That’s what I weigh. If it says 230, that’s what it is.”

He was told he’s listed at 250 and the smile widened again. “That’s what it must be.”

He admitted he dreams of running back kickoffs for touchdowns. In the same breath he said he understands the likelihood of that, great blocking downfield or not. He returned one kickoff 83 yards.

“I guess I just had 83 yards in me on that one. Wish I had 100,” he said.

“LeGarrette made some great runs,” said Nate Solder, the offensive tackle. “Even if we weren’t blocking someone, he was running someone over.”

Don’t be mistaken. Blount has some spin moves that took him out of the grasp of tacklers. His powerful stride did the best.

Belichick was asked if a performance like this somehow justifies adding Blount to the team and was that a source of satisfaction, a reward. “He’s made contributions for us all year,” said the coach, sounding guarded.

But Belichick couldn’t resist: “I think definitely an assist on this one has to go to our assistant personnel director (Aqib) Talib, who I talked to before we traded for LeGarrette.”

The two had played together at Tampa Bay.

“I just told (Belichick) he was a great teammate, a great locker room player and you’re going to see a lot of explosive plays from him,” said Talib. “That’s all I told him. I can’t do nothing but smile. That’s (Blount) my dog.”

On natural grass after the field turned to mud, you’d call Blount a great mudder. On an articial turf field there is no mud. Call Blount a splasher, maybe. His 35-yard run for the Patriots’ last touchdown was a very nice belly-whooper.

It seemed you could see Blount’s grin from the upper deck.

Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

ssolloway@pressherald.com

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