From Dillon to Blount, two highest shares of Patriots' carries have gone to 30-year-olds

From Dillon to Blount, two highest shares of Patriots' carries have gone to 30-year-olds

According to a quick Google search, cows live for about 20 years. According to Bill Belichick (seemingly), bell cows aren’t even born for another decade. 

Though it defies the popular theory that running backs are out of their primes by the time they’re 30, Belichick has gotten two of the Patriots’ best rushing performances during his head coaching tenure out of 30-year-olds.  

Currently enjoying the best season of his career after recently turning 30, LeGarrette Blount has already used this campaign to set the Patriots’ single-season record for rushing touchdowns with 15. This season is one of just five 1000-yard showings from a Pats running back since 2000 and he’s 204 yards from sitting behind only Corey Dillon for the second-most rushing yards in a single season for the Pats under Belichick.  

Blount and Dillon. Those guys have anything in common? 

1. Old! (For a running back, not for the Earth)
2. Carries!

Look back through 30-year-old running backs who've rushed for 1,000 yards. There are plenty, but mediocre backs don’t accidentally end up with a 1,000-yard season or two the way younger ones might. The guys to do it post-30? You’re talking about the Adrian Petersons, Frank Gores, Ricky Williamses, Fred Taylors and Tiki Barbers of the world.

Dillon turned 30 during his first season with the Patriots, which saw him rush for a Belichick-era-best 1,635 yards in 2004. He also got a share of the carries that Belichick doesn’t hand out often. 

In that 2004 season, Dillon was responsible for 345 of the Patriots’ 524 rushing attempts. That’s good for 66 percent, which is the largest slice of the rushing pie Belichick has given a running back in New England. 

Though Antowain Smith got 60 percent of the Pats’ carries twice before Dillon, nobody’s come close to Dillon’s 2004 share since. Only two seasons from then until last season saw one back even get 50 percent of the carries, but this season, Blount has gotten a similar share. He’s had the ball for 265 of the Patriots’ 413 runs, which is 64 percent. 

Without a doubt, Dion Lewis’ second knee surgery and subsequent absence until Week 11 have figured into that, and Week 15’s 18-carry game for Lewis is a sign the team feels he’s up to speed. Still, for a team just two seasons removed from 22 percent being the biggest share of carries for a back (Shane Vereen) the overall reliance on Blount has been fascinating.

So too is the fact that it’s Blount. Unless you’re part of Danny Woodhead’s cult following, you’ll probably agree that the Patriots often don’t have the “sexy” running back: the guy NFL Live dedicates an entire segment to each week, the guy fantasy players target in the first round, the guy folks term one of the greats as they’re watching them, etc. 

Post-2004, the closest they got to that perception was when rookie first-rounder Laurence Maroney sliced up the Bengals for 125 yards in 2006, and we all know how that worked out. 

No, instead of the high-profile options in what history would suggest is their primes, the Pats usually have opted for players with lesser pedigrees (BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Sammy Morris), a first-round castoff (Smith), and a big name perceived to be near the end of his career (Dillon). They let 2011 third-rounder Stevan Ridley, who rushed for over 1,200 yards in his second season, walk at the end of his rookie contract. 

Then there’s Blount: has had big games in his career, but only had two 100-yard rushing performances in 20 games for New England entering this season. Usually his return to the team each year is met with some sort of couldn’t-they-get-anybody-better sentiment. 

Yet Blount’s 2016 is the latest reminder against confusing not being a Madden cover candidate with not being productive. After all, the unheralded Green-Ellis ran for over 1,000 yards in 2010. You can be damn good as a Patriots running back, provided you’re given the opportunity.

That’s exactly what’s happened for Blount, and he’s rewarded them with one of the best seasons for a Patriots running back of the Belichick era. 

Steelers Brown sells out team with Facebook Live video from locker room

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Steelers Brown sells out team with Facebook Live video from locker room

Showing a knee-buckling lack of self-awareness, Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown put up 13:35 of footage on Facebook Live after his team’s 18-16 win over Kansas City on Sunday night.It was a weird betrayal of the team’s privacy by one of its star players. Brown, allowed viewers to see live (and on tape until it’s inevitably taken down) that, while head coach Mike Tomlin was around a bank of lockers addressing what Tomlin presumed was his entire team, Brown was mugging in front of his phone for a growing online audience.The video starts with Brown and teammates having fun in front of their lockers. As the team is called together for a postgame prayer, Brown keeps the camera rolling. After the prayer, Tomlin made a statement.“When you get to this point in the journey, not a lot needs to be said,” said Tomlin. “Let’s say very little moving forward. Let’s start our preparations. We spotted those a******* a day and a half. They played yesterday. Our game got moved to tonight. We gonna  touch down at  4 o’clock in the f****** morning. So be it. We’ll be ready for that ass. But you ain’t gotta tell them we coming. Because some of us might not like the damn (woofkisses?) The chest pounding.  Keep a low profile.”While Tomlin was issuing that low-profile request, Brown rolled on. Another Steeler then spoke up saying, “Keep cool on social media, this is about us, nobody else.”Finally, what sounded like quarterback Ben Roethlisberger addressed the team saying of Foxboro, “That’s a lion’s den we’re going into this week. It’s a lion’s den. Ive been there, a lot of us have been there. Keep your mouth shut.”While people might fan themselves over Tomlin calling the Patriots a*******, that’s benign and likely will be matched in private by Patriots coaches this week.What’s staggering is that a player of Brown’s ability and seeming intelligence would be so self-absorbed as to be agog at putting on a video show for Facebook followers at the expense of his coaches, teammates and franchise.  

Steelers survive, advance to visit Patriots despite red-zone woes

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Steelers survive, advance to visit Patriots despite red-zone woes

For the third time in the Belichick-Brady Era, the Patriots will be trying to step over the Steelers to get to a Super Bowl.Pittsburgh went into Kansas City on Sunday night and outlasted a breathtakingly sluggish Chiefs team 18-16.If you spent the day stewing about the Patriots adequate-against-Osweiler-but-probably-nobody-else offensive performanceSaturday night, maybe Sunday night calmed your nerves.Despite having a more than 2-to-1 edge in total yards entering the fourth, Pittsburgh had managed just six field goals from kicker Chris Boswell. Their best chance at getting six on the board was squelched when Ben Roethlisberger got picked at the goal line in the first half.That Kansas City was even in the game with a chance to tie it in the final three minutes has to be humbling for the Steelers. They dominated every statistical category of consequence while the Chiefs played aimlessly behind Alex Smith, who may be a cut above Brock Osweiler but is definitely a cut below every other quarterback in the Divisional Playoff round.  On this night, Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t much better.Still, Pittsburgh’s got the best 1-2 punch in the NFL at running back and receiver -- LeVeon Bell and Antonio Brown were both at 101 yards after halftime -- and New England’s entire defensive game plan will revolve around corralling those two and getting them horizontal.The Patriots beat a Roethlisberger-less team in October, 27-16. Landry Jones was at quarterback that day.The Steelers were in the Patriots’ red zone four times. They came away with 10 points. They were inside the Patriots’ 40 six times and finished with 16.“In an offense like that with a bunch of very explosive players, one slant can turn into a touchdown so you have to be really careful in your coverages,”defensive end Rob Ninkovich told me after that game. "There’s not just one go-to guy. They got a running back that can catch it out of the backfield and make plays (Le’Veon Bell). [Antonio Brown] can catch it anywhere on the field and make plays. You just have to make sure with a guy like [Landry Jones] to have him make the throws. It’s hard in this league to be perfect. So to have him sit back there and try to make all the throws was what we chose and the secondary did a great job.”Bell and Brown combined for 268 yards from scrimmage against the Patriots. The Steelers scored one touchdown.The ever-dawdling Bell, who practically walks to the line of scrimmage then skips around like a little kid with a full bladder before finding a crease to exploit, is where it will start for the Patriots.If the Patriots are going to go to their seventh Super Bowl since Belichick’s hire, Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, Donta Hightower and Elandon Roberts – their two best interior linemen and their two inside linebackers – will be the ones who start the bus. The overwhelming majority of Bell’s runs are between the guards so building a wall and out-patienting him as he probes for a crease is Job One.The Chiefs weren’t stout enough at the line of scrimmage and Bell brutalized them. It will, of course, fall to more than just those four. Trey Flowers, Rob Ninkovich, Chris Long, Vincent Valentine and Shea McLellin will also be in focus. Run-support from safeties Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty will be a part of it as well, but that’s where the Steelers become tough to deal with.Once Bell’s established himself, the Steelers can start to work play-action and get Brown into space. Creep too far and the numbers on the back end could wind up being insufficient to deal with one of the NFL’s fastest players.That’s why you can expect the Patriots to not overexert themselves with pressures and blitzes against Ben Roethlisberger. They’ll want as many back in coverage as possible to deal with Brown and some of the other Steelers speed merchants.The Patriots have dealt with Pittsburgh’s defense enough to know where to attack. LeGarrette Blount ran for 127 yards on 24 carries in the first meeting and Tom Brady went 19 for 26 for 222 with two touchdowns.The Patriots had Gronk that day and the Steelers didn’t have Roethlisberger. That tips the scales some when measuring the differences. But after watching Pittsburgh kick six field goals and keep afloat an underperforming Chiefs team, the issue that dogged them in October -- red zone offense -- looks like its still around.And they are going to visit a team that does that led the NFL in preventing points.