CARSON, Calif. — LeGarrette Blount stood with his back to a large group of reporters and television cameras that had encircled his stall in the cramped visitors’ locker room at StubHub Center. He slipped on a black shirt that had the words, “Passion and Purpose” written on the back.
Blount, even at the age of 30, has incredible power. But when running backs hit a certain age they often need more than just talent to keep producing in the NFL. It might sound trite to suggest that the Eagles tailback did run with passion and purpose, but how else to describe Blount’s performance — especially a relentless 68-yard burst — in the Eagles’ 26-24 win over the Chargers?
Some of the Eagles were using another term to describe how Blount, who broke multiple tackles and moved piles with his churning legs, gained 136 yards on the ground on Sunday.
“That man’s angry,” quarterback Carson Wentz said.
Two weeks ago, Blount didn’t even register a carry in the loss at the Kansas City Chiefs. But just when it seemed as if the Eagles may phase him out, or when many outsiders were writing him off, Blount has shown in the last two games that he still has plenty left in his 6-foot, 250-pound tank.
“I don’t have any grudges against anybody,” said Blount, who had remained unsigned into May this offseason. “Thirty, 29-[years-old], whatever the case may be, I know what I can do. I know I’m one of the better backs in this league as far as running the football.
“I’m always going to run the football with that passion and with that confidence. But, no, there’s no chip on my shoulder.”
Blount has led the Eagles’ run game in its two-game renaissance. In the first two games, the running backs gained just 104 yards on 33 carries (3.2 average) and had no touchdowns. In the last two, they’ve totaled 382 yards on 72 rushes (5.3 avg.) and scored three touchdowns.
The Eagles’ four-man rotation lost a key figure when Darren Sproles suffered a season-ending knee injury last week. But with Blount handling the bulk of first- and second-down snaps, Wendell Smallwood assuming much of Sproles’ third down role, and rookie Corey Clement filling in here and there, the run game has become the dominant feature on offense.
“Whatever works,” Blount said. “We’re in the business of winning, and that’s what comes first and foremost, no matter what the rotation is, no matter who’s getting the ball.”
Most impressively, the Eagles put the Chargers away with a six-minute, 44-second drive that included three first-down carries by Clement and 6- and 15-yard totes by Blount that iced the game.
“We firmly believe, especially with the type of runner [Blount] is and the type of offensive line that we have, we think that as the game goes we’re going to get stronger, we’re going to impose our will,” Kelce said. “We might not be successful early on, but just keep it at — a defense can only take so much of that.”
Blount wasn’t overpowering in the opener against the Washington Redskins — 14 carries for 46 yards — but it was surprising when coach Doug Pederson didn’t feed him at least one carry the next week in Kansas City. Blount didn’t bat an eye or criticize his coach. He said his time would come.
And it did, to a certain extent, last week when he picked up 67 yards and a score on 12 tries. He had several carries when he refused to go down. But nothing could top his bolt in the fourth quarter after the Chargers had trimmed to Eagles lead to 19-17 with under 14 minutes left.
Pederson called for an inside zone run that had Zach Ertz motion to one side and turn back at the snap to cut the defensive end. But on this play, the Eagles tight end took out two Chargers and Blount had a huge lane.
“It wasn’t that hard to see,” Blount said.
The tailback then took over. Blount shook centerfield safety Tre Boston, who had a clear shot. He then skipped away from cornerback Trevor Williams and ran from cornerback Desmond King. At the 10-yard line, Blount stiffed-armed King to the ground before he was tackled out of bounds at the 3.
“From my vantage point,” Wentz said, “it was one of the most impressive runs I’ve seen live in my life.”
Pederson rewarded Blount with four straight carries — the Chargers negated one run with a penalty — but he couldn’t get in. On third down, Smallwood took over and bulldozed into the end zone behind left tackle Jason Peters and left guard Stefen Wisniewski.
“You always want the football. You want to finish a drive,” Blount said. “But I’m excited that Wendell got his touch. He got in the locker room and he was like, ‘I appreciate the touchdown.’ I was like, ‘Hey, man, share the wealth.’ ”
But it was Blount who galvanized the Eagles with his unyielding effort on 16 carries — he also had a catch for 20 yards in the first quarter.
“It makes my life easier, to be honest with you,” Wentz said. “Seeing the o-line get super excited about, too — we fuel off that emotion, that energy, when a guy like LeGarrette is bouncing off tacklers, making guys miss.”
And Blount’s refusal to go down clearly affected a Chargers defense that was out on the field for almost double the amount of game minutes.
“At the end of the third, going into the fourth quarter they were wearing down,” Peters said, “and we took advantage of it.”
The Eagles were balanced for the second week in a row — Pederson called 36 runs to 38 passes. And when they need their four-minute offense to drain the clock, the offensive line and running backs delivered.
But it was, ultimately, Blount’s day.
“I had a pretty good day,” he said.