Tate proves he has speed to burn
|08.27.10 at 1:48 am ET|
FOXBORO — Fans who watched No. 19 for the Patriots do his work during training camp this summer couldn’t help but notice he was fast – very fast.
Sure he looked impressive in workouts and practices against his own teammates. But many wondered, as they looked down on their roster sheets, could Brandon Tate be an impact player for the Patriots this season? Could he produce big plays in the return game and be a game-changer?
On the first play of Thursday night’s preseason loss to the Rams at Gillette Stadium, they got their answer.
Tate was the deep man at the goal line in the south end of the stadium with Sammy Morris, in a mild surprise, serving as the up back and lead blocker. Sure enough, Josh Brown‘s kick came to him at the 3 and Tate did the rest of the work from there. He took off up the middle and then, as Morris cut a path off to his right, Tate read the gap perfectly, shot through it as if fired from a starting gun and was off to the races.
He easily blew past Brown and scored 12 seconds into the game and scored.
“My teammates were the ones blocking so without them it wouldn’t have been possible,” Tate said.
But Tate didn’t stop there. He said he was actually making good on a promise he made to his teammates.
“I kept saying, ‘I’m ready…this is going to be the one,’ so all the credit has to go to my teammates.”
He also knows that head coach Bill Belichick and the coaching staff, starting with special teams coach Steve O’Brien, believe in the talent he first showed at the University of North Carolina before being drafted in 2009.
“Every time I get to go out there and play, I try to put my best foot out there,” he said. “I go out there and compete every play and just play hard.”
He nearly made it two consecutive returns to the house after St. Louis kicked off after tying the game, 7-7, in the first quarter. Josh Brown tripped him up at the Patriots 41 after a 43-yard runback.
“I know, the kicker got me,” Tate said. “Everyone was laughing because the kicker got me but I tried. It’s alright.”
Alright indeed. Tate finished with three kickoff returns and one punt return and a total of 162 return yards.
But Tate’s big night didn’t end there. He played on the first-team offense led by Tom Brady. While the unit struggled in the first half, Tate was lining up on the outside, opposite Randy Moss and with Wes Welker in the slot.
That could be a sign of things to come, starting when the games actually count. Tate was targeted three times, caught two balls for 17 yards, including a long of 10.
“It felt good to play with whoever is out there,” Tate said of lining up with the likes of Brady, Moss and Welker. “It doesn’t matter who it is. I just thank the coach for giving me a chance to play.”
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