PITTSBURGH — Sunday brought returns to the win column for the New England Patriots and to relative normalcy for Kendrick Bourne.
Exiled to the bottom of the depth chart in last week’s loss to the Miami Dolphins, Bourne’s role in Week 2 was much more similar to the one he played in his first season with New England. He played 24 offensive snaps — up from a measly two against Miami — and delivered a couple of chain-moving receptions in a 17-14 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Acrisure Stadium.
“It was good, man,” a smiling Bourne said after the game. “Anything I can do to help my team win. Just making the plays that I’m in. I just hate that it looks like it’s about me. It’s not about me; it’s about the team. I appreciate the coaches getting me involved. Even last week, it was just a situation that happened. It wasn’t no big deal, the way it looks. I’m just glad that I could help the team and put us in a position to help win.”
In Week 1, Bourne didn’t see the field on offense until late in the fourth quarter. He saw action on New England’s opening drive Sunday and rotated in throughout the game.
The Patriots deemphasized the two-tight end formations they featured against the Dolphins and leaned heavily on three-receiver sets in Pittsburgh, with all five of their active wideouts (Jakobi Meyers, DeVante Parker, Nelson Agholor, Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Bourne) seeing substantial offensive playing time.
Bourne played the fewest snaps of any of those wideouts and finished with just two catches for 16 yards, but his performance was an encouraging step in the right direction. Both of his receptions went for first downs. He also was open on another throw that Mac Jones sailed high and had a fourth-quarter first down wiped out by a holding penalty.
“I’m just honored, man,” Bourne said. “I appreciate it. I’m just playing my role, really, excelling in my role, and that’s just whatever I’ve got to do. I’m that kind of player. Just appreciating what I’ve got to do and appreciate being on the team. That’s the biggest thing. I’m just glad to be here, and whatever I’ve got to do is literally what I’m going to do. I was more involved this week, and it was good. I’m just glad I could make the plays that came.”
Bourne, one of the Patriots’ top offensive playmakers in 2021, said he didn’t feel like he had something to prove in Sunday’s game. He also hopes his playing time, or lack thereof, will not receive nearly as much media attention as the season progresses.
“I’m a team player, man,” he said. “I’m not trying to get the limelight or have you (reporters) all in my face. It’s just how it works sometimes. It’s all about growing with the team and finding your role. It’s a new system, so it’s just growing as we go through the weeks.”
The Patriots’ offense as a whole showed signs of life Sunday, with Nelson Agholor (six catches, 110 yards, touchdown) and Jakobi Meyers (9-95-0) both turning in productive receiving efforts and running backs Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson powering a game-clinching drive that consumed the final 6:33 of regulation. New England’s O-line also did not surrender a single sack against a Steelers defense that racked up seven of them in Week 1 (albeit one that was playing without top pass rusher T.J. Watt).
“We’re not even close, I think, to where we could be, and that’s the biggest thing with us,” Bourne proclaimed. “There’s so much we can do. The coaches are doing a good job of just keeping growing each week. They’re learning us as we go, and it feels good.”