So, it’s understandable why it looked like Meyers had to peel himself off the turf after catching his 11th pass of the night, a 19-yard connection with quarterback Cam Newton with just over four minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Not only was Meyers getting tackled a lot, he was also used heavily as a blocker.
The Patriots went into Monday night’s game with just one tight end, Ryan Izzo, and one fullback, Jakob Johnson.
So, Meyers lined up as a pseudo-flex tight end on 11 second-half running plays, banging bodies with defensive backs and linebackers. The Patriots have used Julian Edelman in a similar manner in the past.
And that didn’t even include snaps when Meyers was used as a run blocker while aligned in a reduced split inside the numbers.
Blocking inside the box is a tough assignment for any receiver, let alone a 6-foot-2, 200-pound former quarterback. But Meyers held up well and only whiffed on a rare occasion.
Meyers played all over the field and excelled against both man and zone coverage.
Meyers caught all seven of his targets for 101 yards while also drawing a holding penalty against man coverage. He caught five of seven targets for 68 yards against zone.
Meyers caught eight of nine targets for 121 yards as the Z-receiver, one of two targets for 20 yards as the X-receiver and three of three targets for 28 yards while drawing a holding penalty from the slot.
Meyers isn’t the biggest, fastest, strongest, quickest or most agile receiver, but he’s savvy at finding space in zone coverages, and he’s got enough of those traits to gain separation at the top of his routes.
Meyers averaged 4.08 yards of separation Monday night, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. The league average is 2.85 yards of separation.
He caught two of three targets for 53 yards on deep balls, five of six targets for 78 yards in the intermediate part of the field and all five targets within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage for 38 yards.
What’s maybe most amazing is that there were some yards left on the field for Meyers too. He had a 9-yard catch erased after being flagged for an illegal shift. Newton also overthrew the second-year pro when he was streaking down the field wide open against a Jets Tampa-2 zone coverage. Meyers might have taken that catch to the house for a touchdown.
We’re past the point of wondering how the Patriots kept Meyers on the sideline for the first six weeks of the season or whether he’ll maintain his starting role when N’Keal Harry and Julian Edelman return from injury. Meyers will stay on the field.
That’s because he can play outside, he can align in the slot, and he can get open no matter what the defense throws at him. He’s also, clearly, Newton’s favorite target.
Meyers might never have another 12-catch, 169-yard performance again in his NFL career, because they’re pretty rare. Monday was a special night for the wide receiver. But he’s currently playing like the Patriots’ best and most willing skill player, and there’s nothing to suggest that will stop any time soon.