James White enters Patriots’ lineup, and steps up
FOXBOROUGH — The big knock on James White has been his inability to make consistent yards after getting hit.
He went a long way in knocking out that perception by scoring both Patriot touchdowns in a 20-13 AFC East win over the Buffalo Bills Monday night at Gillette Stadium.
They were the first two touchdowns of the second-year running back's career. One of the players who is being counted on the help fill the void left by Dion Lewis, who suffered a season-ending ACL tear against the Redskins.
White, in true Lewis fashion, scored his first touchdown on a pass from Tom Brady and his second on a 6-yard run.
That initial score was a thing of beauty, and it caused the beast that is Bills coach Rex Ryan to erupt and throw a five-star nutty on the sideline, slamming his headset to the turf.
After back-to-back Brady incompletions on New England's final drive of the first half, the home team was facing a third and 10 from the 20. Ryan must have been feeling pretty confident about holding the Patriots to a field goal with just 19 ticks before intermission.
White, lined up to Brady's right in the shotgun formation, got a free release at the snap and sprinted to the right flat. With the blitz on, he was uncovered when he caught Brady's toss in stride at the 18.
Bills safety Corey Graham came up to lower the boom on White at the 15, but White flipped the script. The 5-foot-10-inch 205-pounder stuck his right arm into Graham's chest, knocking the defender to the turf and zipping into the end zone to give the Patriots a 10-3 lead.
"It was one-on-one coverage with a safety,'' White said when asked what he remembered about his first trip to an NFL end zone. "They blitzed, Tom threw it to me quick, stiff-armed the guy, and got in the end zone.''
There was no sense of relief of finally getting his first one, White said. He was just happy to give his team the lead heading into halftime.
"Felt good,'' he said. "Anything I can do to help this team win, I'm going to do it. Felt good to get some points on the board.''
Coach Bill Belichick liked what he saw out of White's effort.
"He did a nice job on the touchdown run, broke Graham's tackle, around the 10-yard line, 8-yard line, whatever it was,'' the coach said. "James has been a dependable player for us. He came through with big plays last week against the Giants, and again today. We need everybody every week.''
White wouldn't have to wait nearly as long to make his return trip to the end zone, scoring again in the third quarter to once again give the Patriots the lead.
His touchdown came a play after Brady hit Danny Amendola with a nifty catch and run for 41 yards down to the Bills' 6 yard line.
The Patriots eschewed the huddle, Brady took the snap and stuck the ball in White's belly, and the back powered his way into the end zone.
It was a bizarre play in which the Patriots caught the Bills off guard, with linebacker Jerry Hughes a good 15 yards offside as he tried to scramble into position. Since the Patriots hadn't subbed on the play, they didn't need to give the Bills a chance to, either.
Asked if he saw Hughes trying to make a late dash to get into the play, White had a good laugh.
"Yeah, I almost got smacked by him," he said. "That's the reason I cut the ball up. I saw him out of the corner of my eye.''
White finished with two rushes for 14 yards and two catches for 32. Not the biggest numbers, but the win was all he cared about.
"Guys were down, people needed to step up, I just wanted to be one of those guys,'' he said.
He also knows there's not much time to celebrate his touchdowns or the hard-fought victory.
"We knew it was going to be a four-quarter game," White said. "We knew it was going to be a tough game. We didn't play that great as an offense. We know we have to be better. You know, we have a short week this week, and we got to get ready for the Broncos.''
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