FOXBORO, Mass. — With Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen around last season, Brandon Bolden didn’t have many opportunities to show his pass-catching abilities.
The second-year back finally got to show off the soft hands that netted him 76 career receptions at Ole Miss during his 2013 debut. Bolden was the first running back on the field for the Patriots and got his feet wet on the first play, taking a Tom Brady pass 12 yards for a first down.
Bolden was full of big plays on Sunday as he took on some of Vereen’s duties as the team’s third-down back in place of Leon Washington, who missed the game with an injury. Bolden had four plays of over 10 yards. His biggest was a 46-yard run early in the second half. The Patriots couldn’t capitalize on the big play, as Brady threw an interception to Mark Barron in the end zone.
Bolden only had two catches for 11 yards as an undrafted rookie last year. Out of Bolden’s 100 total yards on Sunday, 49 came through the air on five receptions. At 220 pounds, he doesn’t look like a prototypical third-down back, but he could see an increased workload out of the backfield.
“I feel pretty confident,” Bolden said about his receiving ability. “I got faith in these hands. They may not catch everything, but I dust them off and keep going, try again.”
Bolden said he works on catching the ball every day before and after practice. He understands that versatility is key on the Patriots.
“The more you can do, the more valuable you are,” Bolden said. “So, I just try to expand my game as much as possible.”
Bolden brushed off the idea that he was the “starting” running back. He said Stevan Ridley, LeGarrette Blount and himself all encourage whoever is on the field in a given situation. Bolden was the first running back in the game and piled up the most yards, but Ridley and Blount each had more touches than the second-year player.
Bolden wasn’t perfect on Sunday. He was split out wide on the right side of the field near the end of the second quarter. Darrelle Revis was lined up across from the running back and Bolden had the shutdown cornerback beat deep. Bolden wasn’t paying attention as Brady threw to him, though, and gave up on his route midway through. By the time Bolden realized the pass was coming his way, it was too late and the ball landed five feet in front of him.
Bolden accepted blame for the play, even though he got bailed out by a Tampa Bay penalty for illegal contact.
“No,” Bolden said he wasn’t surprised the ball was coming his way. “Cause he told me keep my head up. But me being hard headed wasn’t paying attention. So that was totally my fault. So no, I wasn’t surprised.”
Bolden did not seem to get punished for his lack of awareness. He made it back onto the field and had a few more big plays. With Vereen out until Week 11, Bolden could continue to be a big part of this offense. Having him around and healthy will only help with so many pieces missing.