Sunday, April 20, 2014
By Mike Lowe firstname.lastname@example.org
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - When LeGarrette Blount first joined the New England Patriots, he immediately hooked up with Aqib Talib to get the inside scoop on what it's like to play for Bill Belichick.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (4-0) at CINCINNATI BENGALS (2-2)
WHEN: Sunday, 1 p.m.
SERIES RECORD: Patriots lead 14-8
LAST MEETING: Patriots beat Bengals 38-24, Sept. 12, 2010
LAST WEEK: Patriots beat Falcons 30-23; Bengals lost to Browns 17-6
PATRIOTS OFFENSE: OVERALL (11), RUSH (11), PASS (17)
PATRIOTS DEFENSE: OVERALL (16), RUSH (14), PASS (17)
BENGALS OFFENSE: OVERALL (22), RUSH (22), PASS (15)
BENGALS DEFENSE: OVERALL (13), RUSH (11), PASS (13)
STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES: Patriots are trying to start 5-0 for first time since 2007, when they won 18 games before losing to Giants in Super Bowl. ... Patriots have won 13 of last 14 games in regular season, including six straight on road. ... Patriots have won last four games against Bengals and seven of last eight. ... Tom Brady has thrown a TD pass in 52 consecutive games, second-longest streak in NFL history behind Drew Brees (54). ... Brady has 341 TD passes, one behind Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton for fourth-most in NFL history. ... Brady is 4-0 career against Bengals, completing 69.7 percent of passes for 937 yards with 10 TDs, two interceptions and passer rating of 114. ... Rookie WR Kenbrell Thompkins played at University of Cincinnati and worked out for Bengals out of college. He has nine catches for 168 yards and three TDs in last two games. ... Bengals have won five of last six at home. They'll be facing a high-powered offense for second straight game at Paul Brown Stadium. They beat Aaron Rodgers and Packers 34-30 on Sept. 22, forcing four turnovers. ... Cincinnati's offense failed to score a touchdown in Cleveland, the first time it didn't get into end zone since playoff loss at Houston ended last season. ... DT Geno Atkins had 11/2 sacks at Cleveland. He leads NFL defensive tackles with 15 sacks since 2012.
-- The Associated Press
The two had been teammates on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who traded both to Belichick and the Patriots -- Talib a steal last season for a fourth-rounder, Blount a steal last April for Jeff Demps and a seventh-round pick.
"He helped me out a lot," said Blount of Talib. "He put me up to speed on how (Belichick) was and how things were going to be here. He told me to just keep working hard and my opportunities will come."
Those opportunities have come. And based on his performances the last two games, more opportunities are likely to follow.
Blount led the undefeated Patriots in rushing each of the last two games, and has provided a 6-foot, 250-pound hammer for an offense in the fourth quarter in each win.
Against Tampa Bay, he rushed for 54 of his team-high 65 yards in the fourth. Against Atlanta last Sunday, he rushed for 48 of his team-high 64, including a 47-yard touchdown run that had NBC color analyst Cris Collinsworth saying, "Sometimes you can't believe a guy as big as LeGarrette Blount can run like that."
The Patriots believe. That's why he's in there.
"The confidence in him has been (there) since Day One," said Belichick. "There's no issue with confidence in LeGarrette. None."
Blount feels he's earned Belichick's trust, at least for now.
"I mean, if you get to play, he trusts you," said Blount. "And if you're not playing, it's something you're doing or they don't trust you. I'm playing so I mean I feel he trusts me. I'm in the game in the fourth quarter, in the third quarter. I'm in the game in all the quarters."
Asked if he relishes the role of the closer, Blount said it doesn't matter when he plays as long as he plays.
"I want to go in there and carry it as much as possible, whether it's in the first or second half," he said. "But whatever they need me to do, I'll do, no matter if it's in the third quarter or the fourth quarter. If they need me to close the game, I'm going to do that. If that need me to start the game, I'll do that."
Blount arrived in New England with some baggage. He had gone undrafted out of Oregon and eventually landed in Tampa Bay. He led rookie running backs with 1,007 yards rushing in 2010. His rushing numbers dropped a bit in 2011 to 781 yards, but he caught 15 passes for 148 yards, a huge improvement over his rookie season.
Then last year, rookie Doug Martin took over as the No. 1 back. Blount's numbers dropped to 41 carries for 151 yards and reports were that he was disgruntled and wanted out. The Patriots were more than willing to take a chance on him. And it's paid off.
"I think he's a good player and he's played well," said Belichick. "He's played well for us, again, going all the way back to the preseason. He has good run skills, he has good vision, he's a big strong guy. He's got speed, catches the ball well. He's been a very dependable player for us."
He's certainly helped open up the offense. Quarterback Tom Brady said it's important that the Patriots run effectively if they want to pass effectively.
"Our running game has been really solid for us this year," he said. "Very consistent, dependable. The backs have all been dependable. The offensive line has been a big strength of the team. We have to keep running it.
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