The New England Patriots have met the big, bad wolf that's threatening to huff, puff and blow their house down. That wolf's name is the injury bug, and over the course of the next six regular-season games and the postseason, we're going to get a firsthand lesson in learning whether the Patriots' house is made of straw, sticks or bricks.
The Patriots suffered a couple of more notable injuries in their 20-13 win over the Buffalo Bills on Monday Night Football, in what could be described as a pyrrhic win. Those injuries have opened the door for some unheralded Patriots to get in some much-needed reps, and on Monday, running back James White answered the bell in relief duty for the injured Dion Lewis.
White is in his second year in the Patriots' system, but the young running back scored his first and second NFL touchdowns on Monday night. He did it in true Lewis fashion, too, finding the end zone once as a runner and once as a receiver.
"Guys are gonna go down, so people have to be ready no matter what the situation is," White said in the locker room after the game. "It's unfortunate, but that's just how it goes in this league sometimes. People have to step up."
White stepped up, alright.
He was the only Patriot to find the end zone, and he did it twice.
"He made a nice play on the touchdown run, broke [Bills safety Corey] Graham's tackle there on the 10-yard line," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, "but James has been a dependable player for us. He came through with a couple big plays last week against the Giants and had [more] today."
White very nearly didn't score on his first touchdown; he was almost driven out of bounds by Graham and was almost knocked to the ground as well, but he was able to catch himself with his hand and keep his balance—as well as his forward momentum—to get the score.
"It just happens," White said of how he was able to keep his balance. "We actually do a drill in practice like that sometimes. It came up, and I stayed up and got in the end zone."
The running game wasn't very effective for the Patriots on Monday night, picking up 85 yards on 22 carries (3.9 yards per carry). The passing game wasn't at its best, either, with Tom Brady racking up just 20 completions on 39 attempts (51.3 percent) for 277 yards (7.1 yards per attempt) with one touchdown and one interception.
But it didn't take much for White to make his presence felt in a big way. He touched the ball just four times, but he racked up 46 yards and two touchdowns on those touches.
The Patriots need players who can make the most of their touches, like White did on Monday.
The offense is losing pieces quickly and appears to be losing steam. Who could blame it? At one point against the Washington Redskins, the Patriots had just five active and healthy offensive linemen. They got back some of their linemen on Monday against the Bills, but they were down to just two healthy and active wide receivers following injuries to Aaron Dobson and Danny Amendola.
|Stats||Career, prior to Monday||vs. Bills|
It took a couple of years for White to finally get his due, but he's not changing his approach just because he's reached the end zone a couple of times.
"I'm playing confident regardless, no matter what the situation is," he said. "I want to be a confident player, whether it's running the ball, catching, blocking, I want to be confident and I want to do whatever I can to help this team win."
He certainly helped the team win on Monday. If he keeps contributing in the running game and the passing game, and if he keeps making the most of his touches the way he did on Monday night, he'll be doing plenty to help the Patriots win.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand.