EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Dion Lewis took his time in the Patriots locker room following their closer-than-expected 24-17 win over the Jets. He made sure his sock game was tight and his suit game on point. Lewis brushed his hair, turned to face a gathering crowd around his locker and still fiddled with his top button. For the first time this year, and maybe since 2015, the running back was the focal point of the offense and our attention.
“Whenever you get a chance, you have got make plays,” said Lewis. “That’s my job. Whenever my number is called to make plays. I was just happy I was able to go out there, play, move around a little bit and help my team.”
“Dion's so shifty, everybody's at the point of attack when he has the ball,” said his personal escort, fullback James Develin.
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Lewis played 29 snaps, 11 more than his season-high, which came two Thursdays ago in Tampa. The former University of Pittsburgh standout knew he’d get more run today just based on the game plan but - as always - you never know what happens after a series or two. But Lewis was productive, rushing for 52 yards while also scoring his second touchdown of the year. And after normal lead back Mike Gillislee fumbled in the opening quarter to kill a Patriots drive on the edge of the red zone, it was Lewis and James White who found themselves as the only two backs playing over the next 34 offensive plays. That allowed Lewis to find better footing from start to finish.
“I think it’s pretty big, even if you’re not getting the ball, just to be out there, getting used to the game flow,” said Lewis. “That’s pretty big but a series here, a series there, whenever my number is called, I gotta be ready to make a play, show them I’m capable. Whenever I get a chance to do that, I gotta prove it.”
Lewis made it clear to me weeks ago that he felt he proved that he was all the way back from the knee injury that derailed his breakout 2015 season and then slowed him for much of the 2016 campaign. But the Pats incorporated him slowly and - at times - sporadically.
“He's incredibly creative,” said Develin. “Everybody's at the point of attack. You have to make your block and sustain it and let the guy do his thing because he's dynamic.”
“I feel I showed them I was ready to go back in July and August,” Lewis told me as he headed for the door. “But hey, I’m just happy we got a win. It’s always exciting to win. And I’m glad I could help.”
Lewis has made his case. We’ll see where it goes from here.