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The Patriots have always been willing to do business in unconventional fashion and earlier this week they did just that with LeGarrette Blount. Various reports indicated the team invoked a rarely-used unrestricted free agent tender just ahead of the deadline to do so on May 9, giving the Patriots at least some rights to Blount in the coming months.
With the NFL Draft just two-and-a-half weeks away, much of the Patriots news today is draft-centric. However, we’ll begin with some veteran news. First, LeGarrette Blount.
Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount has been named AFC Offensive Player of the Month for September by the National Football League. It is the first time in his career that he has earned an Offensive Player of the Month Award, and it is the first for the Patriots since QB Tom Brady and K Stephen Gostkowski earned Player of the Month Awards for September in 2015.
Blount leads the NFL with 298 rushing yards and 99.3 yards per game and is tied for the NFL-lead with four rushing touchdowns. Blount rushed for back-to-back 100 yards games and has scored at least one rushing touchdown in all three games so far in 2016. He gained 105 yards rushing against Houston, a week after gaining 123 yards vs. Miami. It was his 12th NFL 100-yard rushing game in the regular season. He has now rushed for over 100 yards in back-to-back games three times in his career.
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For most of the game this matchup was a lot more of the same: very little push from the offensive line and even less push from running back LeGarrette Blount. Through three quarters Blount had just 54 yards on 18 carries for a pathetic 3-yard average, and that included a 12-yard run on his first attempt.
He was slow to the hole and often got stacked up at the line by Ndamukong Suh and friends. But in the fourth quarter and the Patriots suddenly trying to protect a 7-point lead with rookie backup Jacoby Brissett in the game, Blount sealed it. He carried 11 times for 69 yards in the final quarter, often sweeping to the left behind Nate Solder for big chunks. His 26-yard scamper included a hurdle over cornerback Byron Maxwell, and his work on the final possession brought the Patriots within field goal range. Blount finished with 123 yards on 29 carries (4.2-yard average) but his production was even more impressive considering the circumstances in which he accounted for most of it.
Two other players worth mentioning – and watching – in the coming weeks and months: wide receiver Austin Carr out of Northwestern, and tight end Jacob Hollister from Wyoming. Not that others won’t have equal chances to make it. They will.
The Panthers are the first defending NFC champion to not make the postseason since, ironically enough, the 2013 Falcons missed out at 4-12 after being a lofty No. 1 seed in 2012. While Carolina (6-9) is left to lick its wounds from a wildly underachieving season, the Falcons have reason to celebrate, improving to 10-5 and clinching the franchise’s first playoff berth since that 13-3 season of 2012.
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And the turnaround all started that day at Bank of America Stadium, when the Falcons were humiliated by a Panthers club that seemed poised to become the new powerhouse of the NFC. Turns out their reign was brief.
Traylor, 23, originally entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with the Dallas Cowboys on May 17, 2016 out of Wisconsin. The 6-foot-3, 255-pounder, was released by Dallas at the end of training camp and spent time on the practice squads of both Dallas and San Diego in 2016. He was released from San Diego’s practice squad on Oct. 4, 2016. Traylor played in 38 games with 18 starts and caught 17 passes for 234 yards and four touchdowns during his college career.
Backman, 23, was originally drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the sixth round (213th overall) of the 2015 NFL Draft. Last season, he played in seven games as a reserve and did not accrue any statistics. Backman began the year with the Packers and was released prior to the start of the regular season.
The running game has been rather dormant in recent weeks but not so in Pittsburgh on Sunday. LeGarrette Blount jersey authentic turned in his best performance of the season and it came during a game in which the passing game wasn’t clicking on all cylinders. Blount finished with 24 carries for 127 yards and two touchdowns, and that production was not the result of one or two big runs. Instead Blount consistently churned out efficient runs, picking up 4 yards or more on 15 of his attempts. His long carry resulted in a 25-yard pick up on a third quarter touchdown drive. When the offense seemed to be stagnating during the second and third quarters, it was Blount who jumpstarted things with back-to-back runs that resulted in first downs and soon the Patriots were back on the scoreboard.