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LeGarrette Blount's early exit leads to late entrance to Super Bowl

LeGarrette Blount #29 of the New England Patriots

LeGarrette Blount #29 of the New England Patriots celebrates scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the 2015 AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 18, 2015 in Foxboro, Mass. Credit: Getty Images / Jim Rogash

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - LeGarrette Blount couldn't have known at the time that walking off the field before the end of a game would lead to a remarkable career resurgence that will continue with a Super Bowl run.

The former Steelers running back, upset over a lack of playing time, left the field before the end of a game against the Titans on Nov. 17. The Steelers were so infuriated by Blount's behavior that they released him the next day.

But in the NFL, one man's trash really can be another man's treasure.

Blount was claimed by the Patriots, for whom he had played in 2013, and wound up becoming the starting tailback. In the Patriots' 45-7 romp over the Colts in Sunday's AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium, Blount rushed for 148 yards and three touchdowns.

"I just wanted to come out and run the ball as hard as I can and try to be effective on the way to have the game like I had," the 6-1, 245-pound Blount said. "My offensive line played amazing. I probably should've had more yards than I did. I probably missed a couple holes. But it was awesome. No better feeling than winning this AFC Championship Game."

The only better feeling will come if the Patriots beat the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX on Feb. 1 in Glendale, Arizona.

Blount might be asked to play a similar role against Seattle, although the versatility of the Patriots' offense allows them to go in just about any direction with the run or pass. Either way, he'll be as ready as his offensive line.

"Our offensive linemen played a huge factor in this game," he said. "They blocked amazing. I can't say enough about those guys. They're the best O-line I've played behind, hands down."

The game plan against the Colts clearly was designed to establish the run. When the Patriots beat the Colts, 42-20, in Indianapolis on Nov. 16, former practice squad player Jonas Gray rushed for 201 yards and four touchdowns. Using a similar script against the Colts this time, Blount was the workhorse back, and he responded brilliantly.

"He found yards when there weren't a lot out there, and he's a tough guy to tackle," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "He's really a quality back. There were several times when he took nothing and turned it into something. I thought he showed a lot of determination. That was really an outstanding performance."

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