FOXBORO, Mass. — Riley McCarron’s New England Patriots career got off to an inauspicious start Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.
McCarron, who was promoted from the Patriots’ practice squad this week primarily to handle punt return duties during Julian Edelman’s four-game suspension, muffed a punt late in New England’s season opener against the Houston Texans.
Houston recovered the fumble, retained possession at New England’s 16-yard line and scored six plays later, with quarterback Deshaun Watson connecting with wide receiver Bruce Ellington on a 5-yard touchdown to cut the Patriots’ lead to seven points.
The Patriots held that lead to win 27-20, but McCarron still was frustrated with himself after the game.
“I made a stupid play,” the 25-year-old wide receiver told reporters. “I should have handled the ball. It’s as simple as that. I did not make the decision on a fair catch, obviously, but I know the one I should have made now.”
He added: “I just dropped the ball. It’s not a good feeling. I would like that not to happen anymore this season.”
The miscue was the highlight of an otherwise nondescript afternoon for McCarron, who was making his NFL debut after spending most of last season on the Patriots practice squad. He fair-caught three other punts, and Tom Brady’s only pass to him on offense fell incomplete.
“It obviously is not a good feeling, but credit to the defense,” McCarron said. “They did a great job. I have great support from (my) teammates. They told me to just keep my head up.”
Patriots running back and co-captain James White said he offered McCarron some words of support after his blunder.
“I went up and tapped him on the head,” White said. “I told him, ‘The play is over. We’ll move on from it. The defense is going to try and get a stop, and we might need you that next drive, so you can’t be down in the dumps.’ But Riley’s a good football player. We’ve all made mistakes in some key moments so you’ve definitely got to try and lift him up and keep his spirits because we still had a football game to play.”
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images