FOXBORO, Mass — Brandon LaFell is moving in the right direction.
One, he’s catching the football. Two, he’s garnering plenty of looks within the New England Patriots’ high-powered offense. And three, he’s starting to make an impact alongside quarterback Tom Brady.
The latest evidence of LaFell’s return to form came Sunday, when the big wide receiver caught five passes for 102 yards in the Patriots’ 27-10 win over the Washington Redskins at Gillette Stadium.
“I actually felt good (Sunday). My foot felt pretty good during warmups. It wasn’t giving me a lot of pain like it usually does,” said LaFell, who missed the Patriots’ first five games with a foot injury. “Brady came and found me early and often, and I got into a good little rhythm today. Just played well today.”
LaFell’s first game off the PUP list Oct. 25 against the New York Jets was a disaster. He was limited to two catches for 25 yards and, more importantly, looked like he had Vasoline on his hands, as No. 19 dropped nearly everything thrown in his direction. It was a cringe-worthy performance and a reminder that not everyone hits the ground running after missing more than a quarter of the season.
The shaky effort didn’t deter Brady from going back to LaFell in the Patriots’ Week 8 win over the Miami Dolphins, though. And LaFell took a step forward with a four-catch, 47-yard game in which he was targeted seven times. It wasn’t anything special, but it didn’t need to be after his Week 7 debacle.
LaFell finally broke through Sunday against the ‘Skins. One of his five receptions went for a season-long 48 yards, as LaFell slipped behind the defense and patiently waited as a floater from Brady, who was crushed just before his throw, headed in his direction.
“Man, it felt like I was catching a punt,” LaFell joked of the deep ball. “In those situations, it’s hard if you have to take your eye off the ball to see where the (defensive back) is, but I was like, ‘ball, ball.’ I was just talking to myself, ‘ball, ball, ball.’ But it was just taking forever to come down.”
The Patriots relied heavily on their rushing attack Sunday, with LeGarrette Blount carrying the ball 29 times for 129 yards and one touchdown. New England’s offense also looked out of sync at times — by Patriots standards — and there still is room for improvement.
A healthy and productive LaFell adds another element to the Patriots’ aerial attack, though. And Sunday’s 100-yard performance — LaFell’s third as a member of the Pats — shows he’s trending upward at the season’s halfway point.
“Coming back from an injury, missing (five) games, I know what it’s like,” tight end Rob Gronkowski said. “You just got to get your feet wet a little bit. He has a few games under his belt, and he’s doing a great job.”
The Patriots have had a player rack up 100 or more receiving yards in seven consecutive games. Don’t be surprised if the streak continues with LaFell front and center alongside Brady’s other trusted weapons.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
Powered by WPeMatico