New England Patriots RB James White had an outstanding Super Bowl. He rushed 6 times for 29 yards and two touchdowns and added another two-point conversion on a run, and added 14 receptions for 110 yards and another touchdown. He set Super Bowl records and was a viable candidate for Super Bowl MVP.
Twitter user @Bau5tinMartin asked a pretty good question:
How does White compare to his predecessors at the receiving back position?
The Patriots have always had success at the receiving back position under head coach Bill Belichick, from Kevin Faulk to Danny Woodhead to Shane Vereen and to White. Belichick would also argue that a player like Woodhead (and Dion Lewis) is slightly different because of their ability to run the ball, but they contributed on passing downs in a similar fashion.
The Patriots have seven Super Bowl appearances under Bill Belichick. What’s extremely interesting is to see how the position has evolved under Belichick over the years.
Super Bowl XXXVI: J.R. Redmond
A surprise right out of the gate, but Faulk only had 14 yards from scrimmage in the first Super Bowl for 14 yards; his one catch went for -1 yards. Redmond had 24 receiving yards in the midst of the least productive day by a Patriots receiving back in the Super Bowl. Antowain Smith led the running backs with 96 yards from scrimmage (YFS).
Super Bowl XXXVIII: Kevin Faulk
Faulk took over the receiving back role, but only had 19 receiving yards on 4 receptions. He chipped in 42 rushing yards for a total of 61 YFS and a 2-point conversion. Smith continued as the workhorse with 83 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Super Bowl XXXIX: Kevin Faulk
Faulk had just two receptions for 27 yards, but added 38 rushing yards. It was RB Corey Dillon that led the day with 106 YFS, including 31 receiving yards- more than Faulk produced- and a touchdown.
Super Bowl XLII: Kevin Faulk
This was the last Super Bowl for Faulk and he chipped in 52 receiving yards on 7 receptions, a possible sign of the role to come in the face of increased defensive pressure. Faulk also had 7 rushing yards.
Super Bowl XLVI: Danny Woodhead
Woodhead shared the backfield with RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but led the way with 60 YFS, including 42 receiving yards and a touchdown on 4 receptions. He added just 18 yards on 7 carries.
2. Super Bowl XLIX: Shane Vereen
Vereen had an outstanding Super Bowl with 11 receptions for 64 yards and an extra 13 yards on 4 carries. His 77 YFS went a long way to helping the Patriots complete a 10-point comeback against the Seattle Seahawks as RB LeGarrette Blount (40 yards on 14 carries) wasn’t too effective.
1. Super Bowl LI: James White
As you could see, White’s 139 yards from scrimmage, 3 touchdowns, and additional 2-point conversion sets the latest Patriots receiving back head-and-shoulders above the rest. White’s 139 YFS is the most of any Patriots running back in the Super Bowl under Bill Belichick and trails just WR Deion Branch’s 143 yards in Super Bowl XXXVIII for the most yards from scrimmage by a Patriots skill player under Belichick.
The gentle trend is pretty clear in how the receiving back has become more and more important to the New England offense. Perhaps it was Vereen’s success against the Seahawks late in Super Bowl XLIX that led the Patriots to give the ball to White in Super Bowl LI as early and as often as possible.
White will have another year to leave his mark in Patriots lore before he becomes a free agent. If history is any indication, there will be another talented receiving back waiting for Bill Belichick right around the corner.