LeGarrette Blount will be Dennis Eckersley, if that’s what the Buccaneers need him to be. Of course, he’s also more than willing to be early-period Dennis Eckersley, the pitcher who started 359 games for Cleveland, Boston and the Cubs before he became one of the most famous closers in baseball history in Oakland.
It’s easy to look at Blount and his current role in the Buccaneers’ offense and think of him as a closer, and an effective one in the powerful mode of Eckersley. In Sunday’s win over Kansas City, Blount ran seven times for 58 yards and a touchdown, zipping up a rushing attack that started with Doug Martin’s 76 yards on 13 totes. Blount had five yards on two carries when the fourth quarter began.
A good chunk of his yards came on a 35-yard ramble during a 53-yard game-clinching touchdown drive against a tired Chiefs defense. Blount carried the ball on all five plays on the drive, finishing it with a 12-yard touchdown run that looked like a warm knife slicing through butter. Blount has now scored in two straight games and is averaging 5.1 yards per carry. After a largely inactive first few games of the season, he is happily taking whatever role he can get.
“It’s fun being a reliever, and it’s fun playing in general,” said Blount. “If I can get in early I want to play early, and if I can get in late I want to play late. I have a passion for the game, so whenever I get a chance to play I try to make the best of my opportunities.”
There’s no doubt that the Bucs’ offensive formula on Sunday was a good one, with Martin’s strong running setting up both a downfield passing attack and the chance for the 250-pound Blount to finish it out in a punishing manner. That isn’t necessarily going to unfold in every game, but the Bucs will take advantage of it when they can.
“Well every game is different but that is a nice model that just happened yesterday, you’re darn right,” said Head Coach Greg Schiano on Monday. “After playing for three hours in the 85 degree heat, now you got a 250 pound man coming at you. That would work nice regardless of how he’s used earlier. That will change kind of week to week but that played out well.”
Blount said his ability to come into the game and immediately start picking up yards was more than his own fresh legs or the effects of the heat on Chief defenders.
“It was definitely the offensive line, no matter if I was fresh or not,” he said. “They had Doug breaking long runs, too, so it was definitely the offensive line that was getting [the Chiefs'] line moving. They were moving the line of scrimmage and pushing some guys three, four, five yards off the line, so if we do get tackled at the line of scrimmage it’s going to be a five-yard gain anyway. And in the secondary, you see a lot of our guys downfield blocking. It was more credit to them than anybody.”