Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports

Hannable: Dion Lewis emerging as one of Patriots' most important players

Ryan Hannable
December 31, 2017 - 6:58 pm

FOXBORO — It’s about time Dion Lewis got the credit and attention he deserves.

It’s been a long road for Lewis as a member of the Patriots, as in 2015 he was one of the most dynamic backs in the NFL the first seven games, but tore his ACL and missed the rest of the season.

He returned in the middle of last year, but never really got enough playing time to return to the level he was at the year before. Then this year he was stuck in the backfield with three other talented backs — Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead and James White — and was fighting for playing time.

After four games, Lewis emerged as the lead back and hasn’t relinquished it. Even so, he was being over shadowed by other members of the offense — until Sunday’s regular-season finale.

With Burkhead, Gillislee and White all inactive, the Patriots dressed only two running backs (Lewis and Brandon Bolden) and Lewis took this as an opportunity to put the entire team on his back.

In the 26-6 win over the Jets, which clinched the AFC’s No. 1 seed, Lewis finished with a career-high 31 touches and two touchdowns. He ran for 93 yards on 26 carries, while also adding six catches out of the backfield for 40 yards.

“That is why I say all the time, he’s a beast,” Rob Gronkowski said. “I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen him go through the development since he came back [from the knee injury]. It just shows his hard work and dedication that he puts in to the game.”

Added Gronkowski: “For sure [it’s inspiring]. He’s definitely an inspiring player. To see what he can do out there and make guys miss, or just run them over, it’s amazing.”

With all the running backs out, Gronkowski not getting targeted once, Sunday was all about Lewis, as he contributed 40 percent of the Patriots’ total yards. 

This comes following another tremendous game on Christmas Eve when he set his previous career-high of 30 touches. In the win against the Bills, Lewis had 129 yards on the ground and 24 yards receiving.

“I’m embracing it,” Lewis said of the heavy workload recently. “I like having the ball, I like helping my team win. They counted on me today and I just got to try and make plays for he team and have fun out there. I had a lot of fun out there. We won. It was a great way to close the year out. Now we just got to move forward and work hard for the playoffs.”

The season also marked the first time in Lewis’ six-year career that he played in all 16 games.

“It means a lot to me,” he said. “Just being out there and having the opportunity to be out there playing. Things haven’t always worked out that way in my career, so this year to be out there and be getting the ball as much as I have for the past two games; I’ve got to relish the moment and just embrace it.”

How valuable is Lewis to the Patriots? When the running back gets double-digit carries, the Patriots are 14-0, including the postseason in his career.

With Tom Brady and the passing attack not looking as sharp as it has entering other postseasons, there might be more of an emphasis on the running game and that is where Lewis comes in. Without Lewis, the Patriots would likely be in a whole lot of trouble in the playoffs, as they certainly would have been without him on Sunday.

Like with his height, Lewis may not get the recognition like some of his peers, but games like Sunday show just how talented he actually is.

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