FOXBORO, Mass. — Jakobi Meyers isn’t the only New England Patriots wide receiver capable of throwing a touchdown pass.
Fellow wideout Kendrick Bourne initiated a scoring deluge Sunday with a 25-yard touchdown strike to Nelson Agholor on the game’s opening possession. It was the first of seven Patriots touchdowns in a 54-13 thumping of the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium.
On the play, Bourne motioned into the backfield, received a backward swing pass from quarterback Mac Jones, took a slight stutter-step that froze an onrushing defender and floated a high-arcing throw to Agholor, who was streaking wide open down the right sideline.
“It was just a crazy feeling, man,” Bourne said after the game. “… It was just a dope play. They bit up, and it just made the play easy.”
Meyers began his college career as a quarterback, so he has a passing background. Bourne? Not so much. Before Sunday, the 26-year-old never had attempted a pass in the NFL or in college at Eastern Washington. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d thrown one in a game.
“It might have been high school,” he said. “I think it was high school.”
Bourne repped the play in practice, though, and the Patriots — who’ve increasingly relied on trick plays to keep defenses off-balance — felt comfortable putting him in that spot.
“Through practice, I was kind of getting critiqued,” Bourne said. “I kind of threw it too high, floating it at practice and (offensive coordinator) Josh (McDaniels) kind of told me to put it on a rope. So just practicing, man, executing at practice, making it feel normal in a game. It’s just another practice play. That’s definitely how it felt when I got the ball.
“Shoutout to Nelly. Shoutout to the line holding up. We were able to make that play, man. Big play to start the game. Start off on the right foot.”
Head coach Bill Belichick said the play was the perfect counter to New York’s aggressive defense — and that Bourne delivered a perfect ball.
“I think it was just kind of the right situation,” Belichick said. “I mean, Josh does a great job of mixing plays in to take advantage of the defense’s overaggressiveness, whether it’s pursuit or run force or whatever it happens to be. It was a great call by Josh, and honestly very well executed by everybody. You know, Nelly, it was just kind of the right timing of getting the defender to come up and then get behind him. Obviously, KB made a great throw. That was like a quarterback pass. It was a very well-executed play.
“That’s always the key. Timing and play calling are great, but it always comes down to execution, and those guys really executed it well.”
It was the third completion by a Patriots wide receiver in seven games this season and the first by one other than Meyers, who threw two touchdowns in 2020. Every other NFL team has combined for two completions by wideouts this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Other New England skill players like running backs James White and Brandon Bolden also have thrown backward passes on gadget plays in recent weeks.
“We work on these a lot,” center David Andrews said. “So when we do call them it’s not some big thing. We put a lot of time and effort into them. It’s great execution by KB and Nelly and big Mike (Onwenu) who had a big play to cut the defensive end right there. Everyone executed and did their job.”
Sharing a defender’s perspective, defensive back Myles Bryant said it can be “a little frustrating sometimes” to practice against the Patriots’ offense, “just because there’s so much misdirection.”
“I mean you look through that receiver room, and those guys are so versatile,” Bryant said. “Being able to throw the ball, being able to catch it, and able to take it on a jet sweep. So as a defender, I understand it’s frustrating. But being on this team and having that ability for our offense to be able to do that is wonderful.”
Second-year running back J.J. Taylor had a different word for it: “Thrilling.”
“It’s a thrill to watch,” Taylor said. “To go ahead and execute in the game, it’s another feeling, better than thrilling.”
Bourne also added four catches for 68 yards in Sunday’s lopsided win, including a 46-yard late-game bomb from Jones.