Sep. 20—E. RUTHERFORD, N.J. — I went to a highly-anticipated “Rookie Quarterback Battle of the Century” in northern New Jersey on Sunday.
But, a “James White Saved The Day Again” game broke out in favor of the New England Patriots, 25-6 over the New York Jets.
This is crazy, it really is, White saving the Patriots’ skin yet again.
The Patriots probably would have won eventually with Jets quarterback Zach Wilson, the real Patriots MVP, throwing four, unprovoked, non-pressured interceptions.
But the Patriots’ offense was anemic, which was understandable considering it was Mac Jones’ first road game in a very hostile (at least the first half) MetLife Stadium.
In the first half, the Jets’ defense and their fans came to play. Nothing was easy for the Patriots other than short, easy dump off passes by Jones and some OK runs by Damien Harris.
It started with a short pass — they are always short to White — in which he zig-zagged his way in the middle of the field for 28 yards.
Then there was a 5-yard run, a 7-yard run and, to cap it off, a 7-yard touchdown run in which White rushed into the end zone standing.
It put the Patriots ahead 10-0, the all-important two-score advantage Bill Belichick relishes.
On the Patriots’ next drive, an eventual 49-yard field goal to end the half, White hauled two passes on that drive and a short run.
White had five receptions (46 yards), five rushes (20 yards, TD) in the first half. Basically, his work was done. Another White-led win was in the books.
“James is one of our best players. He will do whatever we ask,” said Belichick after the win. “He’s a guy we really count on and he delivers.”
This is sort of funny. One of the Patriots’ best players was a free agent this past winter and spring. He was supposed to price himself out of the Patriots organization, and nobody would’ve blamed him for leaving.
There was a problem. He didn’t get a real offer. To our surprise, one of the “most clutch” Patriots in this second dynasty run not named Tom Brady, he returned to the Patriots on a paltry one-year, $2.5 million deal.
Last year was a tough one on and off the field. His dad died in a car accident and his mother was in critical condition last September.
While he returned to the team about 10 days later, he was not the same, posting some of the lowest numbers (49 receptions, 375 yards and 1 TD) of his career.
“Last year was not my best year,” admitted White. “(I came into 2021 saying) I will do whatever I can to help the team win, whether it’s getting the ball or not, or just blocking.”
We really don’t deserve this guy. We really don’t. This story could be written about four or five times a season, with White igniting this offense and getting little to no credit and by “credit” I mean contract.
Even Mac Jones went out of his way talking about White’s influence, which he had heard about, but has seen almost every day since mini-camps started.
“I’ve depended on James a lot,” said Jones. “When I’m in the huddle and don’t know exactly what I’m doing, he’s a guy I look to and he’ll let me know the call or whatever … He’s a special guy. He’s a guy you go to when you need to make a big play.”
Harris concurred, taking it a step further.
“(He’s) played in multiple Super Bowls, played a lot of football,” said Harris, in his third NFL season. “James is a great guy, he’s an incredible leader, incredible teammate, incredible guy. I could stand up here and talk about him forever.”
We don’t have time for that. We’re already on to the New Orleans Saints.
But acknowledging a true Patriot, which unfortunately for them means underpaid, like White can’t be talked about enough.
Two games into 2021 and White is on a pace for 96 receptions, 46 rushes, eight touchdowns and, well, a lot of wins.
Speaking of wins, the Patriots are 1-1 thanks to jump-start by White and you can take that to the bank.
You can email Bill Burt at [email protected].