The New England Patriots started their Week 7 game against the New York Jets in perfect fashion. Receiving the opening kickoff, the team marched right down the field and on its fourth offensive play of the day found the opposing end zone for the first time.
The Patriots scoring a touchdown to cap the possession was not a surprise given that they have played some solid offensive football as of late and were going up against a 1-4 team. The play call itself, however, very much was.
Quarterback Mac Jones aligned in a shotgun formation and threw a quick backwards pass to Kendrick Bourne. Instead of the wide receiver taking off with the ball, he reset his feet and threw a pass himself to wide receiver Nelson Agholor for a 25-yard touchdown.
The play was the first step towards New England’s 54-13 victory. It also was Bourne’s first pass attempt since he entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie in 2017. In fact, as he pointed out during his postgame press conference, it might actually have been his first pass since high school.
And yet, the spotlight did not prove to be too bright for the 26-year-old in his first season in New England.
“It was just a crazy feeling,” Bourne said after the game. “Being able to be versatile like that for my team. Being a threat, getting all those reverses, and stuff like that, just doing my job well, man. Setting up for other things off of what we’ve been showing, so it was just a dope play. They bit up and it just made the play easy.”
While he finished the contest with four receptions for 68 yards, the touchdown throw to Agholor was the most memorable play of his day and a tone-setter for the entire team. It also was a well-executed play, as head coach Bill Belichick pointed out after the game.
“It was a great call by Josh [McDaniels], and honestly very well executed by everybody,” he said. “Nelly, it was just kind of the right timing of getting the defender to come up and then get behind him. Obviously KB made a great throw. That was like a quarterback pass. It was a very well-executed play. That’s always the key. Timing and play calling are great, but it always comes down to execution, and those guys really executed it well.”
The foundation for this execution was laid in practice, but Bourne admitted after the contest that he was far from perfect in a protected environment.
“Through practice, I was kind of getting critiqued,” he said. “I kind of threw it too high, floating it at practice and Josh kind of told me to put it on a rope so just practicing, executing at practice, making it feel normal in a game: ‘It’s just another practice play.’ That’s definitely how it felt when I got the ball.”
Bourne’s approach to the play call paid off: he delivered a perfect throw when called upon, and played a key role in New England’s fast start against its division rivals.