Shane Vereen’s record day leads Patriots to thrilling win over Browns
|12.08.13 at 8:11 pm ET|
FOXBORO – With the Patriots losing tight end Rob Gronksowski midway through the third quarter with a serious right knee injury after just two catches for 32 yards and the Browns limiting Danny Amendola to four catches for 36 yards, the team needed someone to step up in the passing game.
The spark they needed came from running back Shane Vereen, whose 12 catches for 153 yards set team records for a running back in the Patriots’ wild, come-from-behind, 27-26 win over the Browns.
The third-year running back out of California has made a significant comeback after playing sparingly in his first two seasons.
In Vereen’s four games since returning from a broken wrist, quarterback Tom Brady has targeted him 45 times and has been successful on 33 of them (73 percent), clearly demonstrating an increase in chemistry. In his five games overall this season, Vereen is averaging 7.2 yards per touch and is currently two rushes away from being the third running back in Bill Belichick‘s tenure in New England to reach the 40-rush/40-catch mark in a season. The other two are Danny Woodhead last year and Kevin Faulk in 2008.
“Helping the team win,” Vereen said of the biggest factor in his career-high for receiving yards. “I mean, if I had to catch the ball in order for us to win the game and make some plays throughout the year, then that’s what, hopefully, I’ll be able to do going forward. Really, it’s all about the team and it’s all about getting a victory.”
Vereen almost singlehandedly gave the Patriots a huge lift after they were seemingly knocked out late in the third quarter. After the Patriots scored their first points of the day, a 33-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski with 1:37 left in the third, the Browns immediately responded with a 80-yard touchdown reception from Josh Gordon on the next play from scrimmage making it a 19-3 game.
Then, led by Vereen, the Patriots responded just 1:19 later with a 6-yard Vereen touchdown run, which was set up by a 50-yard reception from the Patriots running back up the left side, followed by another reception for 16 yards over the middle on the next play.
For Vereen, it’s been an up-and-down first few seasons in New England after being selected in the second round in 2011. After missing time due to a few injuries, he’s now getting more action of late and is making the most of his opportunities.
“Shane, the more opportunity he’s gotten, the more he’s been able to do for us,” Belichick said. “In his rookie year, in the Kansas City game, [in] limited chances he had that year, he was productive. Last year we had some depth in our backfield. When he got an opportunity to play, he did a good job. He obviously had a great game in Buffalo and then missed the next eight weeks. When he’s been in there, he’s been pretty productive for us.”
As Belichick mentioned, Vereen had a big day in the season-opener against the Bills finishing with 14 carries for 101 yards and seven receptions for 58 yards, but he suffered the broken wrist, putting him on the injured reserve-designated for return list.
Since missing the next eight weeks and returning less than a month ago against the Panthers, Vereen has made his impact felt, especially out of the backfield catching at least five passes a game since his return and developing some chemistry with Brady.
“It’s growing, it’s growing,” Vereen said. “It’s getting better. I think today we were pretty much on the same page for the most part, but it can get better. I missed a couple of throws. It’s growing, it’s going to get better and we’re going to work on it.”
With the injury to Gronkowski and running back Stevan Ridley’s decreased workload of late because of fumbling issues, Vereen will likely play a major role in the offense during the remainder of the season and into the postseason.
“It’s just more,” he said. “It’s just more that I have to focus on, but it’s the game of football and that’s what they asked me to do, so that’s what I am going to be prepared to do.”
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