Health, bonding keyed to Patriots backs’ success

Published 8:57 am Friday, February 3, 2017

HOUSTON — When you play for the Patriots, being selfish is not an option.

And no other group may be a greater example of that this season than the trio of running backs that New England will lean on in its Super Bowl matchup with the Atlanta Falcons.

The Patriots struggled to run the ball a year ago after Dion Lewis was lost late in the season to a torn left ACL and LeGarrette Blount to a hip injury.

Email newsletter signup

James White and Brandon Bolden did their best to pick up the slack without them, but New England managed just 44 yards in its AFC championship game loss to Denver.

A year later, those health issues have all but evaporated. And it’s helped produce one of the most dependable groups of running backs the Patriots have had in years.

Blount led the NFL with 18 touchdowns and a career-high 1,161 yards during the regular season. White has been among the Patriots’ most-improved players after he finished with career highs in receptions (60), receiving yards (551) and receiving touchdowns (five).

And after spending the first half of the season on injured reserve rehabbing from knee surgery, Lewis became the first player in NFL postseason history to have a rushing touchdown, receiving touchdown and a kick returned for a touchdown in New England’s divisional-round win over Houston.

“We all bring something different,” Lewis said. “We all have different roles and we all understand our roles and we do it to the best of our abilities. We are really close and we compete and we help each other. There is nothing more you can ask out of a group of guys.”

Of the Patriots’ three primary backs, only Lewis will be playing in his first Super Bowl. Blount and White are in search of their second rings in New England, having won their first in 2015.

Blount rejoined the Patriots in 2014 after an ugly departure from Pittsburgh, and played in the final eight games that season in New England, scoring three times in its AFC championship game win over Indianapolis.

White is looking forward to being on the field for the first time in a Super Bowl after being inactive for the win over the Seahawks two years ago.

He said what has gone into his success this season is simply doing what the coaches ask him to do.

“I just know my role,” White said.