The start to Jakobi Meyers’s birthday wasn’t all that eventful.
With the Patriots scheduled to play in the Meadowlands on Monday night, the second-year wide receiver spent most of the day in meetings preparing for the New York Jets.
“Birthdays on game days are kind of tough,” Meyers said. “It’s a business day.”
The end to his birthday, however, was quite exciting.
Against the Jets, on the same day he turned 24 years old, Meyers turned in unquestionably the best performance of his young NFL career. The undrafted wideout out of NC State made 12 receptions on 14 targets for 169 yards, career highs all around. Had it not been for penalties, another two catches and 29 yards could have been added to that total.
“Man, I’m extremely proud of Jakobi,” said quarterback Cam Newton after New England’s 30-27 victory. “For him to be morphing into the player that he is today, it’s just hard work paying off for him.”
Although Meyers never found the end zone Monday, he was responsible for several key gains. On a third and 20 late in the fourth quarter — with the Patriots trailing, 27-20, and the ball in their own territory — he caught a 19-yard pass to help keep the drive alive. Five plays later, Newton rushed into the end zone to tie the game.
On the final drive of the game, with the score tied and eight seconds remaining, Meyers reeled in a 20-yard reception to set up Nick Folk’s game-winning, 51-yard field goal.
“It was a fun game,” Meyers said, with a smile. “I’m not going to lie.”
Newton seems to have developed a bit of a soft spot for Meyers, as the two actually have some history. Back when Meyers was a quarterback in high school, he attended one of Newton’s camps and played for his 7-on-7 team.
Now, with Meyers as a wide receiver, their connection has since blossomed in a way that neither probably would have expected.
Meyers was clearly Newton’s go-to guy Monday. In the first half, he caught all of his seven targets for 93 yards, including a long of 33. On the day, eight of his catches converted for first downs.
“I knew he would have success,” Newton said. “Playing the quarterback position makes you intellectually sound, cerebral by default, because you know what the quarterback is looking for. He’s such an easy target to throw to, as you can kind of tell.”
Meyers became the first Patriot not named Julian Edelman or Rob Gronkowski to eclipse 100 receiving yards since Josh Gordon in 2018.
“He just finds a way to get open,” Newton said. “He’s got a knack for the ball.”
Added coach Bill Belichick: “Jakobi’s done a good job for us all year. He’s a good route-runner and really understands coverages and timing and when to be open on the route and how to take advantage of different coverage leverages.”
With Edelman on injured reserve and N’Keal Harry sidelined with a concussion, Meyers said he wants to use this time to build trust with the coaching staff and continue adding to his tape. Edelman will miss at least one more game, while Harry has not practiced since his injury.
“I’m just a young guy trying to take advantage of my opportunities,” Meyers said. “The more you give me, the more I’m going to try to do. Hopefully, I can keep building and building, and every week is better than the week before.”
Does he feel like he’s proven something about his ability?
“It’s not necessarily about me proving anything to anybody,” Meyers said. “Just hopefully my teammates, my coaches just trust me and see what I can do. That’s pretty much all it is. As for proving what I can do, they see me in practice, so they know what I can do.”
Newton’s not the only teammate who seems to approve.
As Meyers was finishing his postgame news conference, defensive end Chase Winovich shouted in the background, “He’s been ballin'!”
Nicole Yang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.