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Curran: Top 50 Patriots Under Belichick, 41-50

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We are all the way into the 40s and not one between-the-tackles, bell cow running back has yet appeared?

Let’s fix that right now with LeGarrette Blount at 41.

41. LeGarrette Blount

Years in NE: 4 | All-Pro: 0 | Pro Bowls: 0 | SB wins: 2 | SB appearances: 2 | 2015 rank: N/R

He played 49 regular-season games here and scored 35 touchdowns. He added another eight in 10 playoff games -- seven of them (laughably) against the Colts in 2013 and 2014.

Tom E. Curran's Top 50 Patriots Under Bill Belichick: Top 10 | 11-20 | 21-30 | 31-40

He led the NFL in touchdowns in 2016 (18). He was the hammer for the Patriots in a ton of games the same way the guy at No. 42 was their hammer for them in 2004.

42. Corey Dillon

Years in NE: 3 | All-Pro: 0 | Pro Bowls: 1 | SB wins: 1 | SB appearances: 1 | 2015 rank: 28

Corey Dillon was in New England for three years, played in 37 games and -- amazingly -- scored 37 touchdowns in that span. He had another four playoff touchdowns and his 2004 season was a masterpiece (1,635 yards on 345 carries with 13 touchdowns). But Blount gets him on the ring count.

 

Before we get to the next running back, let’s sneak in a fullback here.

43. James Develin

 

Years in NE: 8 | All-Pro: 0 | Pro Bowls: 1 | SB wins: 3 | SB appearances: 4 | 2015 rank: N/R

James Develin is at 43. Why? You won’t find it in the stats. But Develin helped the Patriots win three Super Bowls and was as responsible for the Patriots’ steamrolling running game that won them SB53 (and the games leading up to it) as anyone. In fact, if Develin weren’t as good as he was, they might not have been able to play that style.

44. Antowain Smith

Years in NE: 3 | All-Pro: 0 | Pro Bowls: 0 | SB wins: 2 | SB appearances: 2 | 2015 rank: 23

Behind him, the great Antowain Smith is at 44. Smith was here for three years and was part of two Super Bowl winners. Like the other two big backs, when the Patriots needed him in big games, Smith delivered. He had 456 yards in six playoff games for the Patriots, no yards were bigger than the 92 he picked up on 18 carries in SB36. Never forget Antowain!

45. Larry Izzo

Years in NE: 8 | All-Pro: 0 | Pro Bowls: 2 | SB wins: 3 | SB appearances: 4 | 2015 rank: 33

Larry Izzo is at 45. He was a mashup of Matt Slater and Nate Ebner, a maniacal, unstoppable special teams specialist who was twice a Pro Bowler and won three of the four Super Bowls he was in during his eight-year Patriots career.

46. Shaq Mason

Years in NE: 6 | All-Pro: 0 | Pro Bowls: 2 | SB wins: 3 | SB appearances: 3 | 2015 rank: N/R

Shaq Mason is at 46. As a guy who barely pass-blocked in college at Georgia Tech, Mason came to New England in 2015 and started playing -- and succeeding -- in perhaps the most demanding offense there is in the league. He’s been part of three Super Bowl wins and missed just eight regular season games at right guard.

47. Asante Samuel

Years in NE: 5 | All-Pro: 1 | Pro Bowls: 1 | SB wins: 2 | SB appearances: 3 | 2015 rank: 38

 

Asante Samuel became one of the best corners in football in his five Patriots seasons. He was the Patriots third corner as a rookie behind starters Ty Law and Tyrone Poole, but took over as a full-time starter in 2004 midway through the season after Law went down. Samuel picked off 19 regular-season passes over the next three seasons and another five in the playoffs, including a pick-six of Peyton Manning in the ill-fated ’06 AFCCG.

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But the play(s) that stick out more are the would-be pick that clanged off his hands with 1:20 remaining in SB42 and the “no thanks, just watching” approach on the David Tyree catch moments later. Samuel was an All-Pro in 2007 and the Patriots would again have an All-Pro corner seven years later in 2014 when the guy at 48 came to New England.

48. Darrelle Revis

Years in NE: 1 | All-Pro: 1 | Pro Bowls: 1 | SB wins: 1 | SB appearances: 1 | 2015 rank: 29

Darrelle Revis made a cameo here but the impression he left remains. “What was special about Revis was he was good every day,” said Devin McCourty. “In practice, that was the first thing. I was like, ‘Yo, this dude's never out of position. Like he plays corner like they teach us.’  He was always in position.” And he helped secure that elusive fourth ring.

49. David Andrews

Years in NE: 5 | All-Pro: 0 | Pro Bowls: 0 | SB wins: 2 | SB appearances: 3 | 2015 rank: N/R

Coming from the other end of the spectrum, undrafted David Andrews is at 49. He became the full-time starter in 2016 taking over the center position from Bryan Stork and was a stabilizing force in the middle of the Patriots offensive line that Tom Brady could rely on. He backboned two Super Bowls, missed an entire season in 2019 with blood clots but returned in 2020 and remains the same steady, unassuming, Do Your Job employee he’s always been.

50. David Patten

Years in NE: 4 | All-Pro: 0 | Pro Bowls: 0 | SB wins: 3 | SB appearances: 3 | 2015 rank: 30

 

Checking in at 50? Chief. David Patten. He kinda strapped the Patriots offense to his back at times in the 2001 playoffs. In the Snow Bowl against the Raiders, Brady targeted Patten 16 times. He caught eight for 153.

The next week, on the road at Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship Game, Brady had to leave the game just before the half with an ankle injury. The Patriots led 7-3 at the time. The Patriots ran four plays before the half. Three were passes from Drew Bledsoe to Patten. Patten pulled in throws of 15, 10 and 11 yards -- the last one a leaping touchdown -- from Bledsoe in Bledsoe’s last flicker of Patriots’ glory. And the following week in New Orleans, Patten made a similar touchdown catch on a throw from Brady late in the half against the Rams in the Super Bowl to again stake the Pats to a 14-3 lead at the break. In four seasons with the Patriots, Patten caught 165 regular-season passes for an average of 15.2 yards per reception.

Patten came back to the team in 2010 after bouncing through the league after the 2005 season. When he retired in training camp, Bill Belichick said,  “He's meant a lot to this team, a lot to this organization, again going back to '01, '02, '03, when we were getting the program started. The toughness and the attitude and the leadership that he brought to our football team in a kind of quiet, Troy Brown kind of way. He just did his job, worked hard, just set the pace for everybody else to keep up with, including the coaches. He'd outwork us, too.”

A perfect place to leave off.