The New England Patriots entered their Week 6 game against the New York Giants already down one wide receiver: Phillip Dorsett, the team’s number three option at the position, was declared inactive prior to the contest after suffering a minor hamstring injury against the Washington Redskins last week. With Dorsett out, the Patriots had only five wide receivers available entering the game — and two of them were essentially special teamers.
Then, in the second quarter, one of the starting options at the position went down. On a fumble that the Giants ultimately returned for a touchdown, Josh Gordon awkwardly twisted his knee on a tackle attempt and remained on the ground with an apparent injury. The 28-year-old walked off the field under his own power and remained on the sideline for the rest of the game despite being deemed questionable to return. Return he did not, however.
This forced the Patriots to turn to undrafted rookies Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski — the latter primarily New England’s punt returner — in their three-receiver sets; the offense entered some uncharted territory along the way as quarterback Tom Brady pointed out during his postgame press conference: “We grinded it out pretty good. We were forced into one personnel grouping in the second half, I don’t think that’s ever happened in 20 years.”
“I thought guys just refocused,” added Brady. “We didn’t have real practices but a lot of walkthroughs, and then you’ve just got to make adjustments. So, guys kind of just filled in. We knew weren’t going to have Phillip [Dorsett] tonight after whatever, yesterday or two days ago, and then Josh [Gordon] got hurt. So, yeah, just dealing with kind of what everyone else deals with this time of year, a lot of injuries and attrition and so forth. So, it was good to win.”
Needless to say that the Patriots did not plan to give Meyers and especially Olszewski that prominent a role agains the Giants, but Gordon’s injury forced their hand with Dorsett already out. And to his credit, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was able to make the most out of it — something Bill Belichick mentioned as well during his own postgame presser: “I thought Josh and the offensive staff did a great job of managing the game.”
“There were a few things, offensively, where it came down to one grouping in the whole second half,” added Belichick when discussing the injury situation. Wide receiver Julian Edelman, who was targeted a team-high 15 times during the Patriots’ 35-14 victory as the most experienced receiver left on the healthy squad, pointed out that the team prepares for moments like these to be ready when it faces adversity.
Jakobi Meyers, meanwhile, explained that he and fellow rookie Gunner Olszewski knew they had to be ready for whatever scenario would come up in the game against New York: “Being a Patriot, they expect you to know what to do regardless of the situation. We practiced those situations in the past, and it’s our jobs as pros to be ready for when they came up. When they came up, me and Gunner [Olszewski] were ready.”
“We’ve been waiting on our moment since we got here and I feel like we did a good job today,” added Meyers who finished the contest with four catches for 54 yards — his best game of the season. All in all, he and Olszewski (who caught two passes for 34 yards) did their best to help the Patriots maneuver around the obstacles that came up with the injury suffered by Gordon and also tight end Matt LaCosse.
However, the mini-bye week that is coming up will certainly be welcomed by the team even despite the rookies putting their best foot forward.