While the New England Patriots’ contest against the Miami Dolphins ended in the worst possible way — you may have heard it by now: with seven seconds left the team gave up a 69-yard game-deciding touchdown — not all was bad. The team had multiple self-inflicted errors and made boneheaded plays even before the collapse at the end, yes, but there also was a lot to like over the first 59 minutes and 53 seconds on Sunday.
One thing that stood out in particular was the contributions made by three of the Patriots’ in-season acquisitions: wide receiver Josh Gordon as well as special teamers Albert McClellan and Ramon Humber all played important roles, and helped New England be in the lead when the football was snapped on the defense’s 48th and final play. Of the three, only one was already with the team the last time it played the Dolphins.
New England’s first meeting with Miami in week four was Gordon’s first game with the club after it acquired him via trade from the Cleveland Browns. Since his two-catch, 32-yard performance in September, the wideout has grown into a legitimate threat in the Patriots’ offense and one of the team’s top two wide receivers alongside Julian Edelman. The Dolphins witnessed it firsthand yesterday as Gordon caught five passes for 96 yards.
Despite his stellar stat-line, the 27-year old receiver had a relatively quiet day when compared to Albert McClellan. The Patriots signed the 32-year old as a free agent in early November, a week after he was let go by the Baltimore Ravens, and quickly turned him into a core special teamer: over the first four games of his tenure with the club, McClellan was on the field for almost two thirds of special teams snaps.
While being a regular in the kicking game, McClellan’s contributions — such is the nature of his role — tended to fly under the radar a bit. Yesterday, however, he thrust himself into the spotlight in spectacular fashion. In the late first quarter, the veteran burst through the line on a punt attempt and blocked the kick. Late in the second period, McClellan repeated the feat: he penetrated the A-gap and quickly got to punter Matt Haack to deflect the punt.
McClellan’s two blocks led to seven Patriots points (it could have been more had the team’s offense not botched the final play of the first half) as he came up big twice and each time helped turn momentum rapidly towards New England. While it ultimately was not enough for the Patriots to come away from the game victoriously, McClellan can still look back positively on his individual performance — one that might earn him AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors.
Ramon Humber, who was brought on board as a free agent one week after the McClellan-signing, had a comparatively quiet game. But even though he did not post the same numbers as Gordon or McClellan, he still played a pivotal role in the kicking game: not only did he catch the football after the first blocked punt and returned it six yards, he also was on the field for 20 of 32 special teams snaps — helping limit the impact of a stellar Dolphins return unit.
In the end, the Patriots received solid performances from the three in-season acquisitions yesterday. And despite the devastating loss, this is one positive New England and the three players themselves can take from the game despite it ending in disappointment.