Bill Belichick’s favorite Hunter Henry play from Sunday’s game likely went unnoticed by most New England Patriots fans.
Henry has emerged as one of the New England Patriots’ most reliable pass-catchers in recent weeks, but Belichick was drawn to one play the veteran tight end made on special teams in New England’s 54-13 spanking of the New York Jets.
“Hunter’s been really good in a lot of ways,” the Patriots head coach said Monday in a video conference. “He’s a smart player. He can do a lot of things. He’s got a good, versatile skill set. Really, I thought one of the best plays he had (Sunday) was on the opening kickoff where the Jets tried to kick the ball opposite of the way we expected and what the wind would indicate and so forth.
“But it was a play designed to send the ball up into the sun and make it a tough catch and a tough play there. Gunner (Olszewski) handled the ball well, but we had to flip the whole return from going to the right (to) going to the left based on where the ball came down.”
Olszewski followed blocks by Henry, Brandon Bolden, Matthew Slater, Jahlani Tavai and others to the 35-yard line, giving the Patriots favorable field position to open the game.
The Patriots went on to score a touchdown on their opening possession — and find the end zone again on three of their next four drives.
“Hunter came all the way over from the right side, made a key block and we got the ball in good field position to start the game,” Belichick said. “It was a heads-up play by the kickoff return team in a lot of areas, but really Hunter made the key block on that and came the farthest to do it.
“It’s little things like that that Hunter does that really — they’re little things that become big things.”
Belichick also credited Henry with an assist on Jonnu Smith’s 28-yard catch-and-run on the opening drive. He drew the attention of the defense with his over route, the coach said, giving his fellow tight end room to run.
“But that’s the kind of thing that Hunter does,” said Belichick, who’s admired Henry since the latter was a high schooler at Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Ark.
Henry made a more visible impact later in the game, catching a juggling 1-yard touchdown pass from Mac Jones. He also was dragged down at the 3-yard line after a subsequent 22-yard completion.
The former Los Angeles Chargers standout has scored a touchdown in each of the Patriots’ last four games, the longest streak by a New England tight end since Rob Gronkowski in 2013.
“He made a great catch on the touchdown pass,” Belichick said. “He’s been a really, really good addition to our team, and he’s helped us in a lot of ways — running game, passing game, as I said, on kickoff returns. He’s a good, smart, tough, dependable player.”