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Phillip Dorsett’s role changed, but his preparation never did

Phillip Dorsett caught 32 of 42 passes thrown his way, a 76.2 catch percentage.
Phillip Dorsett caught 32 of 42 passes thrown his way, a 76.2 catch percentage.(The Boston Globe)

Sometimes — rarely, but sometimes — hashtags can be words to live by.

In Philip Dorsett’s case, #KTSE had to be a mantra during a season in which the circumstances around him changed so much.

He started the season as one of the focal points of the Patriots’ offense. Tom Brady looked Dorsett’s way early and often and Dorsett efficiently turned his targets into grabs.

But when Julian Edelman returned after missing the first four games with a suspension and Josh Gordon arrived via a deal with the Cleveland Browns, the looks Dorsett had been getting turned into passing glances.

The opportunities dried up so much that over a four-game stretch from Week 13 to Week 16, Dorsett didn’t have a single pass come his way.

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But he didn’t let it affect his preparation. He didn’t sour on the sidelines as his snap counts declined. Instead, he waited. And he adhered to #KTSE, as in Keep The Same Energy.

The payoff came in the final week of the season when he turned five targets into five catches for 34 yards and a touchdown in a 38-3 win over the Jets.

It felt like a reward for never letting things rattle him.

“I tried to keep the same energy, like everybody’s saying,” Dorsett said. “My demeanor didn’t change. I just tried to stay in it and I kept working. I kept preparing like I was a starter because you never know what can happen in this league.

“I’ve been in this league only four years, but I’ve seen a lot. So, you never really know what can happen, because your opportunity comes, you’ve got to be ready for it.

“I was going to handle it the same way anyway because that’s the kind of person I am, but knowing that when it did come back around and I was ready for it, we tried not to miss a beat as an offense, it definitely was satisfying.”

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Even as his role changed throughout the season, Dorsett made the most of his 42 targets by hauling in 32 of them for 290 yards and three touchdowns. His 76.2 percent catch rate was by far the highest of his career and the fourth-highest clip in the league among wide receivers with at least 40 targets, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com.

“It’s definitely something that I pride myself on,” he said. “You want to go out there and be dependable for your quarterback and for your team, going out there and catching every pass. That’s every receiver’s goal is going out there and catching every ball that’s thrown at them.”

That dependability is something he believes earned Brady’s trust even before the season started.

“With all the work that I put in during camp and even just going through the season, just staying in and all the work we do in practice,” Dorsett said. “And when I’m in the game, he trusts me enough to throw me the ball still, so I think I did.”

His bye-week plans were to prepare for every possible situation.

Dorsett’s playoff experience over his four-year career is limited to just last season’s run to the Super Bowl. He had one catch for 31 yards in the AFC Championship game against Jacksonville and he made another grab for 19 yards in the Super Bowl loss to Philadelphia.

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“We can do a lot of work,” Dorsett said. “Just tapping in on the situation, because you never know what’s going to come in the playoffs.

“I think Bill [Belichick] said something about the last couple playoff games have come down to the last play of the game. I didn’t realize that, but that’s big.

“You never know when you’re going to have to be in a situation and you haven’t gone over it and you don’t want to be in that.”


Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.