Jacoby Brissett threw for 205 yards against the Buffalo Bills.
Martellus Bennett was on the receiving end of more than half that total.
On a misty Sunday in which wideout Julian Edelman and fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski combined for two receptions, Bennett served as the lone safety valve for the New England Patriots’ rookie quarterback, thrust into his second start in as many weeks.
Bennett ran just 17 routes over his 44 snaps, per Pro Football Focus. But when the 6-foot-6, 275-pound target did manage to slip away from his blocking duties, Brissett sent passes his direction six times.
One was a throwaway that landed in its own area code but was designated as Bennett’s. The other five were completions.
Here’s a glance through the latter, and what Bennett was able to manufacture with them.
14:49 IN SECOND QUARTER
FLAT ROUTE: 10 YARDS
From “12” personnel, Bennett motioned out from Gronkowski’s shadow and joined tackle Marcus Cannon on the right side of the line. But no Bills defender would be joining Bennett as the ball was snapped and he cut his way to the flat. Bennett caught the ball at the line of scrimmage and straight-lined to the sticks before being dragged out of bounds by Buffalo safety Aaron Williams.
7:46 IN SECOND QUARTER
FADE ROUTE: 58 YARDS
New England’s first three drives resulted in three punts and one first down. But, lining up opposite Gronkowski in the seam to begin the second, Bennett veered out to the numbers and 30 yards downfield while former Bills receiver Chris Hogan ran a curl. Brissett chose to go vertical and No. 88 turned back, timed his jump, and came down with the ball beyond cornerback Ronald Darby and behind linebacker Zach Brown. An additional 28 yards arrived after the catch as the veteran tight end shed two tackles and zig-zagged down inside the red zone. The 58-yard pickup marked the longest reception of his career.
14:07 IN THIRD QUARTER
SHALLOW CROSS: 19 YARDS
While Gronkowski set up shop on the right side of the formation, Bennett put his hand in the dirt as the inline option next to left tackle Nate Solder. And as the ball was snapped, Bennett found room to work with just beyond the line, while Gronkowski drew a pair of Bills linebackers into the second level. That made the decision an easier one for Brissett. Stepping into open space and out of a shoelace tackle by Lorenzo Alexander, Bennett wiggled upfield for his third first down of the game.
13:02 IN THIRD QUARTER
SHALLOW CROSS: SIX YARDS
Bennett and Gronkowski assembled a wing on the line, but only one would be running a pattern on second-and-10 early in the third quarter. Gronkowski stayed in to block Alexander, while his teammate was afforded a free release and carved around the commotion on another shallow cross. Brissett got the ball out to his closest target, albeit a step behind him, and Bennett reached back to corral the ball one-handed for a gain of six.
5:34 IN FOURTH QUARTER
BUBBLE SCREEN: 16 YARDS
Bennett’s fifth and final reception versus Buffalo arrived with the game all but over. Down 16 with less than six minutes remaining, Bennett kicked over to the left side of the line before pivoting back towards the quarterback. The ball was snapped. The designed screen had the pieces in place. And with Edelman bringing two Bills to the turf, Bennett followed the path cleared by his teammate before diving for another first.
With that, he had tallied 109 yards.
A Pro Bowler in 2014, Bennett had accrued two 100-yard receiving games over the course of his first nine NFL seasons. But by the time the Patriots had been blanked by the Bills at Gillette Stadium on Sunday afternoon, he’d netted his second of his young tenure with the team.
Through four contests, Bennett leads the Patriots with 247 receiving yards. He’s second on the team with 15 receptions. He’s one of only three with a receiving touchdown.
He’s fast become a safety net for the offense, both with and without the football in his hands.