The New England Patriots needed an offensive player to step up in Super Bowl LI against the Atlanta Falcons because nothing seemed to be working. The rushing attack was terrible. WR Julian Edelman didn’t register a catch after the first play of the second quarter until he made his miracle grab as the Patriots were mounting a comeback. Someone needed to do something.
So the coaching staff turned over every stone to find someone that could produce on offense.
It wasn’t RB1 LeGarrette Blount, who averaged just 2.8 yards per carry against a supposedly weak Falcons run defense. It wasn’t RB2 Dion Lewis, who suffered an early hamstring injury and only picked up 29 yards on 7 touches.
It wasn’t WR1 Julian Edelman as we noted, nor was it WR2 Chris Hogan, who single-handedly stalled the Patriots opening drive of the second half. TE Martellus Bennett chipped in over the course of the game with 5 receptions and 62 yards, but he didn’t take over the game.
No, the three players that saved the day for the Patriots were the ones that resided at the bottom of their respective depth charts.
RB James White ran the ball 6 times for 29 yards and 2 touchdowns; he added 110 yards and another touchdown on a Super Bowl-record 14 receptions. He was the Patriots key mismatch in their spread attack as they pressed the Falcons coverage into exhaustion. White also added a two-point conversion.
Rookie WR Malcolm Mitchell gained 70 yards on 6 receptions, four of which went for first downs. Mitchell only had 1 reception for 7 yards in the first half as much of his production came in the second half. Mitchell has been the team’s #3 receiver all season.
WR Danny Amendola picked up 78 yards and a touchdown on 8 receptions and chipped in a two-point conversion of his own. Like Mitchell, Amendola only had one reception in the first half, which went for 13 yards. Amendola was the team’s #4 receiver when healthy after he lost the job to Mitchell early in the year.
When it comes down to scoring, White and Amendola were responsible for 28 of the Patriots points on the day, with K Stephen Gostkowski knocking home two field goals, but missing an extra point.
Fortunately for New England, players like Edelman and Hogan eventually delivered late in the game, but when the Patriots were floundering, these three unlikely heroes kept the team’s season alive. All Super Bowl champions rely on unlikely players to step into leading roles, and the 2016 Patriots are no different.