After saying he needed to create more opportunities for rookie N’Keal Harry, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels delivered Sunday afternoon.
Against the Bengals, Harry caught two passes, one for a touchdown, on four targets and added 22 rushing yards on two carries. Quarterback Tom Brady and Harry also connected for a 36-yard gain in the first quarter, but the completion was called back because of a false start penalty by wide receiver Julian Edelman.
McDaniels said he felt as though Harry executed tasks suited to both his individual strengths and the needs of New England’s offense. On his catch in the end zone, Harry made a second move to cut back inside to give Brady an open look.
“He certainly made a really good play in the red area keeping the play alive, not getting pushed out of bounds once the play was extended and continuing to work and find space for the quarterback to find him there,” McDaniels said Monday morning during a conference call. “Generally speaking, you want to try to stay in motion and move to find open space and help the quarterback, so I thought he did a good job.”
As he did a week ago, McDaniels continued to praise Harry’s work ethic.
“He’s just continuing to get better,” he said. “He certainly wants to help in any way that he can. He’s got a great attitude. It all starts with a good week of practice, and we’re going to need to have another good week of practice this week.”
Brady was upbeat during his weekly interview on WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show.”
Brady, who threw a pair of touchdowns in Sunday’s 34-13 win over the Bengals, praised the team’s defense and the running game.
“It was good to go on the road and get a win,” said Brady. “We were coming off of two tough losses, and anytime you go on the road you have to expect the opponent’s best. They have some real talented players on defense and it was kind of a grind out there in the first half. Then got some great turnovers from our defense and won the turnover margin. We did a great job of running the ball, so it was just a good win. That’s what we needed.”
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that accomplished NFL players react to seeing Brady the same way fans do. That was on display after Sunday’s game, when 23-year-old Bengals running back Joe Mixon got to meet the 42-year-old.
“I still can’t believe I shook Tom Brady’s hand today and had a lil conversation with him,” Mixon wrote on Twitter. “I ain’t [going to] lie, I wanted to ask for his jersey but was too scared to ask.”
“He was like, ‘Great player, hell of a runner,’” Mixon told reporters. “I was like, ‘Dang, that’s Tom Brady that said that.’ I appreciate that. I was like, ‘Good job, keep being you, keep being great.’ ”
Brady was asked about Mixon’s wish on WEEI.
“I’m going to send him one,” Brady said. “I saw that last night. That was pretty cool. I feel the same way about so many of these young players that inspire me. That guy is one of the great running backs in the league.
“There was a time when I was a young player and I looked up to so many guys and I just think now that I’m on the other end of it I understand kind of how it goes. You see these guys playing on TV and then you meet them and it’s surreal.”
Best on defense
After cornerback Stephon Gilmore intercepted two of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton’s passes Sunday, several Patriots tweeted their endorsement for Gilmore being Defensive Player of the Year campaign.
“Y’all need to wake up,” wrote linebacker Kyle Van Noy. “I mean buddy has 6 INTs 2 for TDS this season.”
Gilmore has a league-tying six interceptions this season — two of which have gone for touchdowns. He’s also broken up 14 passes and allowed just 24 catches on 66 targets (36.4 completion percentage). Opposing quarterbacks have a 12.2 passer rating when targeting Gilmore this season.
Coach Bill Belichick attributed Gilmore’s week-to-week success to the fact he is always ready to put his accomplishments behind him. Both Belichick and linebackers coach Jerod Mayo praised Gilmore for his intensity and relentless preparation in spite of his acclaimed reputation.
“I think that’s really the key to the sustained success is that mentality of starting all over again and not resting on any laurels or accolades that have come in the past,” Belichick said. “If you are satisfied and don’t continue to improve and work on things that’ll continue to present problems for the opponent, then they’re eventually going to catch up to you and get you.”
“You see him in practice, this is a guy — no matter what the drill is, no matter what the situation is — he’s always out there competing, trying to get better, working on his craft,” added Mayo.
Hayden Bird of the Boston.com staff contributed to this report.