FOXBORO, Mass. — Few New England Patriots players receive more universal praise from head coach Bill Belichick than running back Brandon Bolden, and that certainly didn’t change Saturday night.
With running backs Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee both sidelined with knee injuries, the seldom-used Bolden logged four carries for 27 yards and scored his first touchdown since 2015 as the Patriots blew out the Tennessee Titans 35-14 in the AFC Divisional Round to advance to their seventh consecutive conference championship game.
After the game, Belichick, who jumps at every opportunity to commend Bolden for his leadership and special teams prowess, said the 27-year-old veteran deserves more recognition for what he brings to the team.
“He’s really a valuable guy for us in a lot of different roles,” Belichick said. “Until you need him, it doesn’t seem like that much. Then when you need him, it’s a lot, and it’s hard to find players like that that can step up into those critical roles — pass protection, ball handling, tough yards on the goal line, things like that — without getting a lot of reps, without getting the multiple opportunities and just step in there and do it the way he does it. We have a lot of guys on the team like that, and he’s a really valuable guy.
“He doesn’t get enough credit for what he does, but he does a great job for us, and he does a great job with the leadership he gives us in the kicking game with the younger players, with other players that are on the unit. His communication skills and experience and awareness are very good.”
A rotational running back during his first four seasons with the Patriots, Bolden now rarely plays outside of the kicking game. He had just one carry in the entire 2016 season before logging 13 this season, nine of which came in Week 17.
Quarterback Tom Brady, a longtime friend of Bolden’s, was happy to see him get an opportunity under the bright lights of the postseason.
“I love Brandon,” Brady said. “He’s just a great teammate, friend. He’s just a great person, someone I’ve been in a lot of meetings with and a lot of walk-throughs and a lot of games with. You have those relationships with those guys, and when you see them do well when their number is called, it’s pretty cool. I’m really happy for him. He deserves it. He’s a really special guy. It was great to see him get in the end zone (Saturday night).”
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
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