FOXBORO, Mass. — Nearly six years after Julian Edelman’s famed bomb to Danny Amendola in the 2014 divisional round, a double-pass touchdown helped propel the New England Patriots to another unlikely win over the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium.
With Edelman currently on injured reserve, this score came courtesy of Jakobi Meyers, a fellow former quarterback who’s recently assumed Edelman’s mantle as New England’s top wideout.
With just over a minute remaining in the first half on a wet, windy Sunday night, Meyers motioned toward the formation, received a backward pass from quarterback Cam Newton, took three quick steps to his right and heaved a rainbow to running back Rex Burkhead, who’d torn down the sideline on a wheel route.
The pass was perfectly placed. Burkhead caught it between two Ravens defenders for a 24-yard touchdown that gave the Patriots their first lead of the game. They never relinquished it, leading the entire second half en route to a 23-17 upset victory.
?It?s something we practiced over the last couple of weeks,” a smiling Meyers said in his postgame video conference. “I just never knew when it was going to come up. I was surprised it came up in a rain game, but I?ve still got it a little bit. And I knew I had Rex out there.
“Rex is a playmaker, a former basketball player. I trust Rex to put the ball in the sky and let him take a chance on the ball. That?s what I did. I put the ball up there, and he did the rest.?
Making Meyers’ completion arguably more impressive was that the Ravens — well-aware of the Patriots’ proclivity for trickeration — weren’t fooled on the play. Rookie linebacker Patrick Queen stuck to Burkhead as he released out of the backfield. But Queen’s brief moment of hesitation gave Meyers the window he needed.
“It’s something we’ve been working on, definitely,” said Burkhead, who also caught a touchdown pass from Newton in the second quarter. “Just kind of try to sneak out there, and I saw the linebacker coming out with me. I didn’t know if a guy was over the top too, so I was kind of surprised when Jakobi threw it. And he threw an absolutely perfect pass right in there for me to make the easy catch.
“That just shows how great of an athlete Jakobi is. I’ve been one of his biggest fans ever since he’s gotten here. He’s just a playmaker and has no fear, has all the confidence in the world to go out there and make a play. He did that there, and it was a big-time moment for us in the game.”
No fear, but perhaps some nerves.
Meyers was a standout quarterback at Arabia Mountain High School in Lithonia, Ga., even earning a coveted spot on an all-star 7-on-7 team Newton coached. But he’d attempted just four passes since entering college — he converted to receiver after his redshirt season at North Carolina State — and completed just one of them.
“I think Jakobi has always been able to throw it,” Newton said. “And I was teasing with him before the play was called. I said, ‘Don’t panic now.’ He said, ‘I’ve got to take off my gloves. I’ve got to take off my gloves. I’ve got to do it so (the defense) won’t recognize nothing.’
“So he took off one glove. He takes off another one. I’m like, ‘What are you doing?’ He says, ‘I got to take off another one, bro.’ And he did pretty good without being able to warm up or anything.”
Once Meyers got the ball in his hands, his instincts kicked in.
“I was just trying to be a playmaker,” the wideout said. “It’s football at the end of the day. I threw the ball as a little kid in the front yard before I was even a quarterback, so just remembering the love for the game. I mean, I still throw. I probably don?t do progressions and drop back and do QB drills, but it’s still football at the end of the day, using our tools God blessed me with. Just giving my guy a chance.”
Newton, who’s pushed Meyers in recent weeks to recognize his own potential, was impressed.
“Once a quarterback, always a quarterback,” the veteran QB said. “I’m pretty sure Julian Edelman is somewhere smiling — but nervous at the same time, if you know what I mean.”
Edelman’s college QB-to-star receiver story has been repeated ad nauseam throughout his Patriots career, but he had to wait until his 86th NFL game to attempt his first pass. Meyers, who’s closely studied Edelman to hone his wideout skills, got his chance in his just 22nd appearance, halfway through his second pro season.
He hopes to see more in the future.
?For that to finally connect and for that to finally work out, it was a big moment for me, especially (for my) confidence being able to throw it, and the coaches seeing I can throw the ball a little bit,” Meyers said. “So hopefully, we might have something in the future. But we?ll see. Hopefully, that confidence is definitely there for the coaches and they trust me with the ball in my hands to make the right play.”
Meyers also was the only Patriots wide receiver to receive a target from Newton on Sunday, catching five of seven passes thrown his way for a team-high 59 yards. Since earning a prominent role in New England’s offense in Week 7, he leads all Patriots players in targets (37), catches (27) and receiving yards (346).