Blount, Ridley chewing up yards after contact

Blount, Ridley chewing up yards after contact
December 26, 2013, 4:15 pm
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FOXBORO -- When he considered the attitude it takes to be a physical running back in the NFL, LeGarrette Blount's voice rattled low, sizing up the thought as though it might be a linebacker five yards down field.

"It's just . . ." he started. "I don't know, man. I don't know. I come in with the mindset that I won't get tackled. I just feel like nobody can tackle me. That's how I run, I feel like nobody can tackle me. When I get tackled, especially if it's a hand swipe to my leg that trips me up or something, that pisses me off because I feel like I could have taken that to the house. That's how I always run. Whether I'm in a crowd or not, I feel like I can come out of it."

It's an attitude that has helped Blount carve out a regular role in the Patriots offense in recent weeks. In New England's last four games, Blount has carried the ball 47 times for 209 yards and three scores.

If the Patriots opt to lean on their running backs more often without their game-changing tight end Rob Gronkowski -- their offensive plays favored the run last week against the Ravens, 34 rushing attempts to 26 passing attempts -- they can turn to a three-headed approach with Blount, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen.

Call them Thunder, Thunder and Lightning.

While Vereen provides soft hands and good routes out of the backfield, both Blount and Ridley are proven yards-after-contact runners.

Last week against the Ravens, according to Pro Football Focus, of the 130 yards gained by Ridley and Blount, 56 came after contact. Ridley alone chewed up more than half of his hards (30 of 56) after bouncing off or running through a potential tackle.

Part of what has made Ridley a productive runner after contact, however, may have helped contribute to his propensity to drop the football earlier this season. He fumbled in three straight weeks in November, at times twisting and spinning for extra yardage.

Ridley explained on Thursday how he plans to put his fumbling problems behind him, but he vowed not to alter his style.

"I just gotta squeeze the ball that much tighter and hold on, but I'm still gonna run the ball aggressive and do my job and what this team needs me to do," Ridley said. "If the ball's high and tight, I think the coaches will be happy and there will be less turnovers, and we'll all be sitting here having a great day. I just gotta keep pushing."

At 6-feet and 250 pounds, Blount is a battering ram who has shown unique athleticism when in the open field. He said that getting yards after contact isn't about running angry. It's about embracing a skill set -- in his case, a combination of strength and balance -- and taking advantage of it.

"I'm never angry," Blount said. "I just feel like I can run as hard as I possibly can. With [tacklers] coming from each side, that's how guys break all of these runs. They get hit from one side. Then they get hit from another side. Then they get hit from the back and it knocks the other two guys off. The next thing you know, you're still going. It's just how those beast mode runs are. That's how those Marshawn Lynch runs are. That's how you get yards after contact. You just keep your legs moving, low center of gravity, you just hold onto the football and then eventually somebody knocks somebody off."

Blount knows he hasn't broken any long runs after contact yet this season, but he also understands that every yard he picks up by using his size and his momentum counts.

Every so often during film study, Blount said he will see a tackle he believes he could have broken, driving him to once again churn his legs hard and fight his way through would-be tackles the following week.

"I just look at them and I say 'Bro, I feel like I could have came out of that,' " Blount said. "If I get tackled, I see it and I say 'I think I could've came out of that. I should have came out of that. If I were to pick my knees up, or if I were to throw an arm out or something, I could've came out of that.' . . . It's just getting those extra yards."