FOXBORO, Mass. — Some assorted notes and nuggets from the New England Patriots’ 27-20 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday at Gillette Stadium:
— One of the game’s unlikely offensive standouts was Patriots fullback James Develin, who caught four passes on four targets for 22 yards in the win.
Develin, whose primary role is as a lead blocker for Patriots running backs Rex Burkhead, Jeremy Hill and James White, never had caught more than two passes in any game in his NFL career. He caught just 10 all last season.
Yet on Sunday, the bruising 2017 Pro Bowler finished with more receptions than Burkhead, Chris Hogan and Cordarrelle Patterson combined. Football is weird sometimes.
“I’m just trying to go out there, do what the coaches ask me to do, get as open as I could and catch every ball that came to me,” Develin said after the game. “Thankfully, I was able to do that (Sunday), but we have a ton more that we can work on offensively, and I’m excited to get back to work.”
Develin’s teammates certainly appreciated his contributions, which came while tight end Jacob Hollister and running back Sony Michel both were sidelined with injuries. Wide receiver Julian Edelman also was unavailable due to his four-game suspension.
“It’s huge,” tight end Rob Gronkowski said. “I mean, we really don’t have that many guys right now in the tight end room, wide receiver room. We’re low on running backs, so we need to use everyone, and he’s been always preparing and been always ready.
“Every time since I (can) remember since he’s been here, he’s always been ready to catch the ball, to get the first down, how many yards we need. He works hard, he plays hard, he blocks hard. It’s great to have him in the room.”
White added: “He’s out there on the field more and more each week. He’s a very versatile guy, and he made some key big plays for us (Sunday). I think a lot of guys just tried to step in there and make plays when the ball came their way.”
— Unfortunately for Develin, he also was involved in an unfortunate play early in the third quarter.
After Tyrann Mathieu recovered a Rob Gronkowski fumble, Develin and Hill both tried to tackle simultaneously. Develin’s shoulder made contact with the side of Hill’s right knee, knocking the running back out of the game.
Hill’s brief statement on social media and Develin’s somber postgame comments both suggested the injury was a significant one.
“That’s incredibly unfortunate,” Develin said, “but we’ve just got to keep pressing on and just try to work as hard as we can and play hard in his honor.”
— White, a former high school teammate of Phillip Dorsett’s at St. Thomas Aquinas in Florida, was thrilled to see the Patriots wideout enjoy a breakout performance Sunday. Dorsett caught a career-high seven passes on seven targets for 66 yards and a touchdown.
“I’ve known that guy since high school,” White said. “He works extremely hard. He (joined the Patriots) last year after training camp, so a lot was kind of thrown at him fast. I think he got better as the year went on. I think he took the challenge this offseason to learn the offense as best he can and just be in the right spots and win in man (coverage). I think he went out there and showed it (Sunday) that he can be a good player for us.”
— In a surprise move, Patriots defensive end Derek Rivers was a healthy scratch in what would have been his first regular-season NFL game.
Rivers, a 2017 third-round draft pick who missed his rookie season with a torn ACL, evidently is behind fellow second-year pro Keionta Davis on the depth chart. Davis made his NFL debut Sunday and made an impact as a pass rusher, finishing with one QB hit.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images