Sunday’s 34-20 win over the Buffalo Bills was more than just another division win for the Patriots, but since 2007, it is the seventh time that the Patriots have secured a first round bye. No other team in the NFL has done it more than twice in that time-span.
They did it with an unlikely two, who have stepped up all season long due to injuries and shortcomings from the ones in front of them. LeGarrette Blount and Julian Edelman have been carrying the load and out of necessity comes the power of innovation.
Innovation is exactly what the Patriots needed when their starting running back Stevan Ridley fumbled in three straight games and Blount came in and immediately contributed. Since Ridley’s first game with a fumble, which coincided with Ridley losing playing time and Blount gaining playing time, Blount has racked up 507 rushing yards of his 772 on the season.
With 334 total yards yesterday, most in Patriots-team history, Blount recorded kick-off returns for 62 and 83 yards which are good for the two best this season. On top of that, Blount scored two touchdowns and rushed for 189 yards on the ground.
“Clearly the best player on the field,” Belichick said about Blount when asked. “He had a tremendous day. He carried the team on his back most of the day. He had 330-something yards, I don’t know how much more we had besides that.”
On another note, Julian Edelman has been filling in all season long and has gone from a serviceable back-up to Brady’s main target with over 100 catches on the season. Injuries had hindered Edelman throughout his young career, but this year it’s the injuries to others that set him apart.With Gronkowski gone most of the season and Amendola not being right after an early season injury to his groin, Edelman stepped in and has recorded 105 receptions for 1,056 yards. He’s caught 69.5% of balls thrown to him and grabbed a career-high six touchdowns.
“It’s cool and everything, but you really go out and you play for other things,” Edelman said. “Like playing in the last game of the year and winning that game, and we’ve put ourselves in an opportunity to go one step closer to that.” — “A lot of things haven’t gone my way in the past, you know, playing behind someone that’s doing really well, or whether it’s injuries or not executing certain situations, but it was kind of cool to get that today, but more importantly it was definitely great to go out there and win in those conditions.”
Edelman contributed in the short passing game in the horrible, dare I say it playoff like, conditions in Sunday’s win. He’s the guy that Brady typically flocks to and I even read one article where the writer compared him to Troy Brown, which makes a little bit of sense.
The Patriots locked up the second seed and will get the first round bye and are set to play Saturday January 11. It’s been an unlikely year for these two players and we’ll see if they can keep the magic going throughout the playoffs. The Patriots are going to need big contributions from Edelman and Blount if they want to make their Super Bowl hopes a reality.