Number 85 made an appearance for the Patriots in their
regular season opener on Sunday, but for at least one play it
appeared that Chad Johnson might still be the one filling out that jersey. After
making a big mistake early, though, Brandon Lloyd made sure to correct that
On his first real opportunity in a Patriots uniform, Lloyd
cut inside of his man and headed straight down the middle of the field. Tom
Brady worked a fake double reverse to perfection to freeze the defense, freeing
up Lloyd as he headed toward the end zone in what appeared to be a Randy
Moss-esque connection. But the chemistry between the two hadn't quite fermented
Lloyd turned around on the pass, leaping in anticipation of
a spectacular catch but ultimately came up just inches short with the leather
skimming off his fingertips. If this was the same No. 85 as a year ago that
made the miscue, he wouldn't be heard from again. Luckily for the Patriots, the
new guy isn't afraid to fail.
"We were close," Brady said of the missed opportunity with
Lloyd after the game. "When they're that open you don't want to miss those
ones. He made some really good plays on the ball."
The misjudged pass play was just one of many opportunities
for Lloyd during the Pats 34-13 win in Tennessee, and New England's newest deep
threat made sure not to make the same mistake twice.
Lloyd finished the day with a team-leading 69 yards on five
receptions. He wasn't able to find the end zone like tight ends Rob Gronkowski
and Aaron Hernandez, but his production was important to
opening up the duo for their opportunities inside the red zone. At the very
least, it was a vast improvement over the man formerly known as Ochocinco — both literally and numerically.
The expectations for Lloyd entering this season were to
provide the deep threat that the Patriots have been lacking since Moss' heyday, and what they thought they were getting with Johnson last season. The
understanding is that he'll likely never break any of the records Moss was able
to set during his historic 2007 season, nor will he flounder in historic
fashion like his numerical predecessor. But a more tempered outlook would be
for the 31-year-old wideout to maintain consistency on the outside and open up
passing lanes for the rest of the Patriots offense.
The chemistry between Brady and Lloyd will
continue to develop as the season rolls on, which was already on display as the
game progressed on Sunday. But until their connection is deeply rooted within
this Patriots offense, Lloyd will have to settle for being the second, third or
even fourth option and just making the most of every opportunity.