Entering the ninth week of the regular season, Mohamed Sanu had only caught touchdown passes from two different quarterbacks: Cincinnati Bengals passer Andy Dalton hooked up with him for a score on 11 different occasions between 2012 and 2015; the Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan found Sanu 16 times from 2016 until his departure from the club in mid-October. On Sunday night, the 30-year-old was able to add another name to this list: Tom Brady.
Four minutes into the second quarter of the New England Patriots’ game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sanu aligned in the left-side slot on a 3rd-and-goal play and Brady found him for an easy score. While it would remain the only time the two connected for a touchdown during the Patriots’ 37-20 loss, the chemistry between the future Hall of Fame quarterback and the recently acquired wideout was apparent throughout the game.
After targeting Sanu five times during his Patriots debut last Sunday, Brady fired 14 passes his way against the Ravens. The ex-Falcon, who was brought in via trade in exchange for a second-round draft pick, caught 10 of the passes for 81 yards and that one touchdown and quickly appears to be establishing himself as a core member of New England’s passing attack — one that was on the field for all 67 of the team’s offensive plays in Baltimore.
“We are in pretty good shape,” said Sanu when speaking about his heavy workload in the locker room after the game. “We knew what we were getting into and we knew what to expect. This was the kind of game that you wanted to play in as an athlete, big time games. Rise up to competition. You want those kinds of moments, but we have got to make the kind of plays in order to get the win, and we did not do that today.”
New England ultimately came up short against a Ravens team that played an outstanding game on both sides of the ball. Naturally, few positives came out of the contest from the Patriots’ perspective. Sanu’s development and the ever-growing trust his quarterback seemingly has in him, however, certainly qualifies as such and can be seen as one of the few bright spots on an otherwise forgettable day for the now 8-1 team.
“I am getting better and better each step of the way,” the 30-year-old pass catcher said on Sunday when asked about who he feels within one of the NFL’s most challenging offenses. “I still have a ways to go, but I am getting better and better with it. I am just learning day by day. I am just being me. If they want me to do something, I am going to go ahead and do it. I am a competitor, so I am going to find a way to do the best at it that I can.”
“I’m happy he made a bunch of plays,” quarterback Tom Brady meanwhile said about Sanu. The duo quickly developing a rapport is certainly welcome news for a Patriots offense that has gone through numerous wide receivers going back all the way to the offseason — from Maurice Harris and Demaryius Thomas, to Antonio Brown and Josh Gordon. Sanu is the latest addition, and one that should bring some stability to the position.
While not all was perfect for the Brady-Sanu connection on Sunday, the duo certainly seems to be on a solid way and it gave the Patriots a much-needed spark: while ultimately coming up short, the team moved the football well at times especially after going to a no-huddle attack. Sanu played a big role in it as a top-three wideout alongside Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett II, and is projected to see considerable action even after the return of first-round rookie N’Keal Harry.
Sunday may have been a bad day for New England overall, but not all was as bad as the final score might indicate — especially when looking at the bigger picture.