TAMPA — After he had knocked down everything wearing green and gold on the field during a determined 54-yard touchdown run Sunday, LeGarrette Blount set his sights on the Packers faithful standing a few feet away from the end zone.
The Bucs running back raced to the retaining wall before pumping the brakes. Instead of doing the Lambeau Leap, he aborted his takeoff and flipped the football in the direction of the seats before watching it fall harmlessly to the turf.
"I wasn't about to jump in the crowd," Blount said. "I was going to fake it the whole time. There's no telling what would've come out with me. I probably would've had beer on me and everything."
Blount routinely hurdles defenders in the open field in a single bound. And though he didn't get much air after his highlight-reel touchdown, coach Raheem Morris knows the second-year player from Oregon can reach newer heights.
"The sky can be the limit," Morris said.
If there is one reason for the Bucs to be optimistic they can end the four-game losing streak and turn their season around starting Sunday against the Titans in Nashville, it's Blount.
Despite missing two games with a knee injury he sustained at San Francisco on Oct. 9, Blount has rushed for 541 yards and four touchdowns on 118 carries, a robust 4.6-yard average.
More important, his physical style of running ignites the offense and the Bucs sideline while allowing quarterback Josh Freeman room to work.
"It hypes our team up, it stirs up emotions, it turns the energy higher," Blount said. "There are a whole lot of things that can come out of a big run. I saw that last week. Everything started to pick up and come together for us. We've just got to make more explosive plays like that."
Blount said he had seen a replay of his run on television only once.
"I didn't actually rewind it, because if it was up to me, I'd sit there and watch it all day," he said.
The Bucs trailed 14-0 early in the second quarter when they took over at their 18-yard line. Freeman connected with receiver Arrelious Benn for a 28-yard gain to the Tampa Bay 46-yard line.
The Bucs came out with Blount as the lone setback, with a tight end and three receivers. Benn and Sammie Stroughter lined up to the right side of the formation; receiver Mike Williams was on the left. Before the snap, Benn went in motion across the formation, targeting Packers outside linebacker Eric Walden.
Blount was met just past the line of scrimmage by middle linebacker Desmond Bishop, who was unblocked in the hole.
"I missed my initial block," guard Davin Joseph said. "I had (Bishop), and he shot it back side. I thought he was going to try and go over top of me. He was right in the hole, and LeGarrette made him miss and I said, 'I've got to do something, now.' "
Blount, listed at 6 feet and 248-pounds, lowered a shoulder into Bishop's chest, bowling him over. He split safety Morgan Burnett and cornerback Tramon Williams. Burnett went low, and Blount stepped out of a shoe tackle. Williams had him around the waist at the 47-yard line when Joseph, hustling downfield, destroyed him.
Linebacker A.J. Hawk dove at Blount and came up with a handful of air. At the 25-yard line, Williams was pushed hard in the back by Walden and nearly fell across the back of Blount's legs. Blount stiff-armed Walden at the 10-yard line and dragged him into the end zone.
"It helped our whole spirit," Joseph said of the run, in which Blount broke six tackles. "You could just see our whole sideline going crazy. That helped lift our whole team."
The Titans are on record as saying they made a mistake by releasing Blount, whom they signed as an undrafted free agent in 2010. Sure, the Titans had Chris Johnson. But Blount would have been the perfect complement to him.
"I'm happy everything worked out the way it did, and fortunately I came here and became the premier, starting running back," said Blount, who went undrafted primarily because of his infamous punch of a Boise State player the previous fall. "Everything works out for the best.
"They basically told me they were going to waive me. They didn't really go into detail.
"I was just excited I was getting a chance to play. I did everything I could to showcase my skills around the league. Fortunately, I landed here, and things have been going good for me."
Before the game at Green Bay, offensive coordinator Greg Olson pleaded for more splash plays from players such as Blount.
"Right on cue, LeGarrette goes out there and gives us one of those splash runs," Morris said. "Maybe we should just ask for more."
Rick Stroud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. View his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bucs. Follow him on Twitter at @NFLStroud.