Rookies Jakobi Meyers and N’Keal Harry struggle through growing pains

New England Patriots Jakobi Meyers (16) gained 35 yards on this reception from James White in the fourth quarter, but was denied first career TD catch earlier in the period.
New England Patriots Jakobi Meyers (16) gained 35 yards on this reception from James White in the fourth quarter, but was denied first career TD catch earlier in the period. Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

FOXBOROUGH — Jakobi Meyers landed in the end zone, rolled over onto his back and shot his hands into the air with the football clutched tight between them.

For a brief moment, Meyers thought it had finally happened — he had finally caught his first NFL touchdown.

That joy was replaced with disappointment after a review of the play found Tom Brady’s pass to the 23-year-old rookie was incomplete. The call came moments after fellow rookie N’Keal Harry was erroneously ruled out of bounds, taking away a touchdown that would have brought the Patriots within one score of the Kansas City Chiefs with 11:42 remaining in the game.


Instead, the Patriots settled for a Nick Folk 29-yard field goal, making it 23-16, which would remain the final margin of New England’s third loss of the season.

Sunday marked another day of frustration for Meyers and Harry, another reminder of the growing pains the Patriots’ first-year receivers have been struggling through a season in which New England seems desperate for a weapon — any weapon — capable of igniting its sputtering offense.

“If I would have just caught it clean the first time, you know, it wouldn’t have even went that far,” Meyers said at his locker after the game. “So at that point, I was just like, man, I blew that one. Regardless of what I felt or anybody felt, I just should have caught it the first time. It would have been a lot better moment.”

Meyers’s first season in the NFL hasn’t been simple. Undrafted out of North Carolina State, the Georgia native latched on with the Patriots this spring. He had a stellar training camp and earned his way onto the 53-man roster, and has seen action in 12 of the Patriots’ 13 games, including one start against the Cowboys.


He’s only been targeted a few times each game, and knows he has to make the most of them. He was targeted three times against the Chiefs and gained 35 yards on his one reception (from James White on a fourth-quarter halfback throw). But Meyers was not going to dwell on the missed opportunity for his first TD catch.

“[You] can’t really live in the past, because the next might slip away from you,” he said. “So [I’m] just trying to keep moving forward no matter what happens. No matter how good, no matter how bad, stay even keel the entire way.”

Harry, who was the Patriots’ first-round draft pick (32d overall) out of Arizona State, hasn’t had much of an easier start to his first year in the league. He didn’t make his debut until Week 11 in Philadelphia after beginning the season on injured reserve with an ankle injury.

He recorded his first career TD catch in a 13-9 victory against the Cowboys in Week 12, but on Sunday, he missed out on the second one when officials ruled he had stepped out of bounds at the 3 while lunging for the pylon. Replays, however, showed Harry did not step out of bounds, but the Patriots were still denied what would have been a tying touchdown.

“I thought it was a touchdown,” Harry said. “I’m pretty sure everyone else saw it was a touchdown.”

As frustrating as it was, Harry, who said the officials did not speak with him about the play, was forced to take the result in stride.


“You know, at the end of the day, I was always taught to control what I can control and, you know, I did that, I felt like my effort was good. That’s all I can give,” he said.

And Meyers is just hoping he’ll get a chance to make his first touchdown catch sometime soon — hopefully before the playoffs.

“You know, this year, coming in for my first year, you didn’t know where you were going, you didn’t know [the] playbook ,” he said about the rest of the season. “Now, I kind of have a leg up, I’ll be able to learn, or keep going over plays, keep trying to get comfortable on my routes and just be ready to come in.”

Katie McInerney can be reached at katie.mcinerney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @k8tmac.