EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Malcolm Mitchell’s Patriots teammates ran to console the rookie wide receiver after he had a game-winning touchdown pass slip through his fingers late in New England’s Week 12 matchup with the New York Jets.
Less than four game-time minutes later, those same teammates rushed over to celebrate with Mitchell after he caught the game-winning touchdown past Jets cornerback, and former Patriot, Darrelle Revis.
Needless to say, the Patriots’ 22-17 win over the Jets was a roller coaster for Mitchell, who actually caught two touchdowns over Revis.
“We have a team full of great guys, great friends who kept me encouraged after I felt pretty miserable after missing the play,” Mitchell said Sunday. “All the guys just kept me encouraged and said we have more time on the clock to keep playing football.”
Mitchell has had the right outlook to succeed with the Patriots since he was drafted in April. He continued to say and do all the right things Sunday.
“I think I might have been praying on the field that we would get another chance to make a play to put our team in position to win,” Mitchell said. “Fortunately, I got an opportunity to do that, but if it was any other guy, I would have been just as happy. … I’m just glad our defense gave us an opportunity to have a chance to win that game.”
Mitchell now has three touchdowns in his last two games. After being a healthy scratch in Week 8, followed by a bye, Mitchell has made the most of his opportunities. He has 16 catches for 235 yards through 10 games, including five for 42 yards with two touchdowns Sunday, and it’s entirely possible Mitchell won’t finish with the same type of production Aaron Dobson or Kenbrell Thompkins did as rookies in 2013.
It also seems likely Mitchell won’t earn nicknames like “Dropson” or “Dropkins” as his rookie predecessors did. Mitchell is making game-winning plays, and he’s earning playing time despite extremely impressive veterans, like Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett, LeGarrette Blount, James White and Dion Lewis, ahead of him on the pecking order.
“I think Malcolm has done a lot to gain everyone’s trust because he shows up every day, works his butt off and is so committed to the team,” quarterback Tom Brady said. “Football means a lot to him. He’s come through in the clutch, so we keep giving him opportunities.”
Mitchell didn’t seem overwhelmed by the Patriots’ complex offensive system after being drafted. He had a plan in place to learn the Patriots’ playbook, and it appears he’s successfully executed it.
“Malcolm’s done a good job for us all year, all the way back to the spring and OTAs, and all the way through training camp,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. “He missed some time in camp after he got injured. He’s always hung with it, mentally staying on top of it. He’s just getting a little bit better every week. It’s a long season for the rookies. … Malcolm made some big plays today.”
It’s difficult to succeed in the Patriots’ offense as a rookie, and typically Belichick likes to give young players a year to redshirt. But Mitchell is pushing the issue with his playmaking ability.
Thumbnail photo via Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports Images