FOXBORO, Mass. — For the second time in two weeks, New England Patriots fans finally received what they’ve been demanding for years.
Last week, it was a touchdown pass from Julian Edelman, a college quarterback, and on Sunday, in the Patriots’ 45-7 AFC Championship Game win over the Indianapolis Colts, it was Nate Solder’s touchdown catch.
“It was amazing to be a part of a game like that and to have a cool play like that,” Solder said Sunday in the Patriots’ locker room. “It was really fun.”
Solder began his college football career as a 230-pound tight end at Colorado. He caught three passes for 50 yards as a freshman before bulking up and moving to offensive tackle — the position that made him a 2011 first-round draft pick by the Patriots.
Since that pick, Patriots fans have been crossing their fingers for some trickery — and for Brady to throw to the 6-foot-8, 320 pounder.
Solder has been targeted once before, last season in the Patriots’ Week 5 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Brady’s red-zone target wasn’t caught, and it took the Patriots another year and a half to try again. It paid off Sunday when Solder’s 16-yard TD capped the Patriots’ opening second-half drive.
“We’ve been practicing that for years,” Solder said. “I did it in college, and now here it is.”
An ecstatic Solder had no qualms when he heard the play call.
“When I heard it called, I said ‘That’s a great call, cause it’s gonna work,’ ” Solder relayed.
The Patriots have been playing around with eligible (six offensive linemen) and ineligible (four offensive linemen) players for the past two weeks. It helped spark the Patriots on a scoring drive that confused the Baltimore Ravens last week, and Solder was the beneficiary as an eligible player Sunday.
Patriots interior lineman Ryan Wendell, who celebrated with Solder after the touchdown, was happy the play wasn’t called for him.
“I’m not jealous at all. I’m happy he got it,” Wendell said. “I would have dropped it. I would have choked. I’m happy for him.”
Wendell said he and his fellow offensive linemen make Solder run with the specialists because he’s faster than the rest of his group. Solder showed off that speed when he ran past Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson and over safety Mike Adams, but he barely remembers what transpired.
“I thought, ‘Catch the ball, hold onto it and don’t fumble it.’ That was my two thoughts,” Solder said. “I had blinders on at that moment. I was just going straight ahead. I was blacked out. I don’t remember half the play.”
The Patriots showed their versatility and trickery while advancing in the playoffs over the last two weeks. Perhaps we’ll finally see Darrelle Revis as a wide receiver in Super Bowl XLIX, when the Patriots take on the Seattle Seahawks.
Thumbnail photo via Matt Slocum/Associated Press