Regardless of early struggles, Kendrick Bourne states his case as Patriots No. 1 receiver with 2-touchdown sport


After solely reeling in a single landing over 16 video games in 2022, Bourne doubled his TD output in a single sport on Sunday.

New England Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne (84) celebrates with wide receiver Demario Douglas (81) after a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, in Foxborough, Mass.
Kendrick Bourne reeled in six catches and two touchdowns throughout New England’s Week 1 loss. AP Picture/Greg M. Cooper

It looks like a very long time in the past that the Patriots’ incapacity to reel in DeAndre Hopkins by way of free company was an offseason indictment on Invoice Belichick’s squad.

A few of that discourse relating to a dearth of receiving choices for Mac Jones was quieted throughout preseason play, particularly when New England exited cut-down day with six receivers on their roster.

With an arsenal of weapons like JuJu Smith-Schuster, DeVante Parker, Hunter Henry, Mike Gesicki, Demario Douglas, and Kayshon Boutte, Jones has quite a few avenues to show to when dropping again to move — together with all-purpose backs like Rhamondre Stevenson, Ezekiel Elliott and Ty Montgomery.

However for all the totally different shops accessible to Jones in Invoice O’Brien’s revamped offense, one query lingered from the Hopkins’ offseason saga.

Do the Patriots really have a No. 1 receiver on their roster?  

Within the closing minutes of Sunday’s season-opening bout towards the Eagles, CBS broadcaster Tony Romo supplied up his verdict.

“I’m so impressed by [Kendrick] Bourne,” the previous Cowboys QB famous. “I believe they acquired themselves a No. 1 receiver.”

Given the variety of targets accessible for Jones, and O’Brien’s knack for spreading the wealth throughout the depth chart, it is likely to be asking loads for one Patriots participant to surpass 1,000 receiving yards for the primary time since 2019.

However a rejuvenated Bourne appears able to benefit from his alternative in O’Brien’s new scheme.

Jones did unfold the ball round throughout Sunday’s 25-20 loss, with six totally different gamers reeling in a minimum of 30 receiving yards towards Philadelphia.

However Bourne led the best way as Jones’ most reliable goal, catching six balls for 64 yards and two touchdowns.

Sunday stood as a step ahead for Bourne after a forgettable 2022 season in Matt Patricia’s simplefield offense.

After reeling in 55 catches for 800 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2021, Bourne was restricted to simply 35 receptions for 434 yards in his second season with New England. His lone landing got here in Week 16.

Whether or not it was touchdown in Patricia’s doghouse or different elements, Bourne’s route-running and flexibility was usually an afterthought.

With 11 targets on Sunday, it looks like that technique has been shifted.

“I actually assume we performed good,” Bourne, who doubled his TD totals from 2022 in only one sport, stated postgame. “We simply began sluggish. So return to the movie room, get proper, get higher. It was good to be taught off a sport like that via adversity.”

It wasn’t an ideal evening for Bourne, particularly in the beginning.

New England’s first drive of the night supplied loads of promise, with a number of substitutions and shifting formations permitting Jones and Co. to march down the sphere with loads of tempo.

However a excessive throw from Jones and a subsequent bobble from Bourne led to catastrophe. With Bourne unable to reel within the throw, the ball landed within the fingers of Eagles nook Darius Slay, who took to the home for a 70-yard pick-six.

Earlier than some had even settled into their seats at Gillette, the Eagles had a 10-0 lead.

Even together with his sturdy stat line, Bourne didn’t make any excuses for his incapacity to usher in a couple of extra catches, together with an incompletion on a Third-and-12 sequence within the fourth quarter.

“Only a drop actually, man,” Bourne stated when requested concerning the first-quarter play. “So I gotta make the catch. I pleasure myself on making robust catches. Fairly bummed about that one, man. I need to present up for my staff in all areas.

“Touchdowns are cool, every part’s cool. However an enormous play like that might have modified the momentum much more. So simply training and focusing — wanting all of it the best way in, even when it’s a crowded tight catch like that. I do know I could make that catch. Subsequent time, I’ll.”

Regardless of the sluggish begin, New England nonetheless totaled 382 complete web yards on offense, a far cry from the lackluster manufacturing discovered throughout the preseason — and a departure from the stop-and-start outcomes discovered final yr underneath Patricia.

Despite the fact that Jones positioned a majority of the blame for Sunday’s loss on himself as a result of first-quarter lapses and an incapacity to execute within the ultimate minutes of play, it nonetheless stood as a step in the suitable course for New England’s QB1.

Sunday was the fourth time that Jones has thrown for 3 touchdowns in a single sport. His 316 passing yards had been the third-most of his profession.

Postgame, Jones burdened that Bourne’s presence provides some much-needed safety, particularly when the sign caller must eliminate the ball in brief order.

“He stored preventing,” Jones stated of Bourne. “I do know that about KB, we’ve sort of been in these conditions far too usually the place we’re behind and I do know that’s my go-to man.”

In some respects, Bourne’s evening stood as a microcosm of the Patriots’ efficiency on offense towards the Eagles.

Regardless of some miscues in the beginning, Bourne believes that each he and his teammates put collectively some encouraging stretches of play towards one of many higher defenses within the league.

The subsequent step is to construct off of that efficiency, particularly with a key divisional matchup towards the Dolphins set for subsequent Sunday in Foxborough.

“We undoubtedly really feel like we are able to play with any staff,” Bourne stated. “Simply maintain enhancing day by day. … Simply taking part in our sport, taking part in throughout the scheme, and simply making the performs once they come. I believe that’ll make us higher.”