LeGarrette Blount is six feet tall and weighs 250 pounds, and he runs the football like he's trying to smash through a series of brick walls. It's hard to imagine Blount being afraid of anything on the football field, but he admits that there was one moment during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 18-17 win over the St. Louis Rams that made him feel a little nervous.
His teammate, Cadillac Williams had just scored what would prove to be the winning touchdown with 10 seconds left and Blount had rushed over to join in the celebration. He was entering the scrum when he realized he was the only player in the group without his helmet on. That made him somewhat vulnerable in the bedlam taking place in the south end zone of Raymond James Stadium, but in the end he decided it was worth the risk.
It was worth it to Blount to share in Williams' joy, just as the two had shared the load in producing one of the better days for the Buccaneers' offensive backfield in some time.
"It was awesome, it was awesome," said Blount. "It was fun. You could see how emotional he was about it. It was just awesome, to come back and get a win with Cadillac getting the winning touchdown."
Williams actually scored on a one-yard reception, working his way open as quarterback Josh Freeman scrambled to his right in the face of an up-the-middle Rams blitz. It was the last of Williams' team-leading eight receptions, giving him 15 catches over the past two games. He had five catches (plus a 10-yard run on third-and-three) on the Buccaneers' 81-yard game-winning drive.
And on this afternoon, Williams' work out of the backfield proved to be a perfect complement to the power-running of Blount, who may have announced himself as an NFL-caliber tailback on Sunday. The former undrafted free agent out of Oregon, picked up by the Buccaneers off waivers from the Tennessee Titans just before Week One, ran 11 times for 72 yards, almost all of it during his team's second-half surge.
And it could have been much more. Blount also had runs of 14 and 46 yards called back by penalty. Still, he averaged 6.5 yards per carry, the best by any Buccaneer player this year in a game with at least 10 carries, and he helped stabilize a struggling offense after halftime.
"You can't say enough about the young man and I wish they hadn't taken that big run away from him," said Head Coach Raheem Morris. "He runs hard, he runs resilient, he runs tough. He's kind of a symbol of our football team and some of the good things that we talk about. He's young, he's in the fight. He's playing fast, he's playing hard. He's learning every single day."
It's no secret that the Buccaneers' running game has struggled this season. Williams has been a workhorse, handling most of the rushing load because the coaching staff trusts him to get the right man in pass protection, and because he has a proven track record as a runner. But he has yet to have a breakout game on the ground, and so the team turned to Blount on Sunday for a spark. The rookie responded, and the combination worked.
What that means to the depth chart isn't particularly important to the Buccaneers at this moment or, necessarily, in the near future. It seems obvious that Blount can help the offense, as can Williams, so both should play important roles moving forward.
"All those things will be placed in time," said Morris. "It's a team football game. LeGarrette Blount was able to get us rushing yards today. Cadillac made some big-time catches today and actually scored the game-winning touchdown. Everybody has a role right now for us. I think this team just has to win. I think that's the most important value for us."
That Blount and Williams were able to spark the offense on Sunday was particularly impressive given the team's injury problems. Not only was do-everything running back Earnest Graham shelved with a hamstring injury, but two-fifths of the starting offensive line was out as well. Most notably, rookie Ted Larsen started at left guard, with Keydrick Vincent out, in what was Larsen's regular-season NFL debut.
The front line did run into some potentially troublesome penalty issues, but it also opened some nice holes for Blount, which was enough in the end.
"Everybody thinks that we don't have a run game but we showcased it today with our offensive line doing a wonderful job, especially coming in with some of our guys inactive and down with injuries," he said. "The young offensive line came up and did everything they were supposed to do, and they knew they had to do to get everything off of the ground, and they did a great job."
Blount has now played in three NFL games. In one, he appeared only briefly, carrying four times for three yards at Cincinnati in Week Five. But he was a small bright spot in the team's Week Three loss to Pittsburgh, scoring the Bucs' only touchdown, and he was a tackle-breaking machine on Sunday against St. Louis. He has been inactive on three other occasions, but one would expect he's in for some much more active Sunday's in the weeks to come.
That idea is certainly exciting to the newest contributor in the Buccaneers' backfield.
"I was just being patient and waiting for my time to come, and it came today," said Blount. "It was fun, it was a lot of fun being in there and fighting with my team."