By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Over the past few weeks, it’s been worth wondering why the Patriots claimed Michael Floyd off waivers. For a team atop the AFC standings to acquire a player coming off an arrest for DUI, it seemed like an unnecessary PR hit to take on.
On Sunday, everybody saw the answer.
The wide receiver impacted Sunday’s game in several different ways, displaying a fierce physicality and a high level of athleticism during the Patriots’ 35-14 win over the Dolphins.
He first showed up late in the first quarter, catching a pass from Tom Brady on an in-cut route on a first-and-10 from the Miami 14-yard line. Floyd made the catch at the 9-yard line, and with a full head of steam he turned upfield toward the end zone. Before he could get there, he was met by cornerback Tony Lippett, linebacker Kiko Alonso, safety Bacarri Rambo, linebacker Spencer Paysinger and cornerback Bobby McCain. Floyd bulldozed his way through all of them en route to scoring his first touchdown in a Patriots uniform.
“I just haven’t been in there in a while, so I wanted to get in there today, for sure,” Floyd said of his trek to the end zone. “Very hungry.”
Floyd’s next contribution came just past the midway point of the second quarter, when he high-pointed a Brady pass along the right sideline while carefully tapping both feet before falling out of bounds. It was a gain of nine yards, one that moved the Patriots into the red zone and helped set up a field goal. And it was the type of play that only a first-round pick can probably make.
But the play when Floyd most made his presence felt came on a play when he never even touched the ball. On a third-and-7 from their own 23-yard line, after the Dolphins had closed the Patriots’ lead to just six points, Brady found an uncovered Julian Edelman up the left seam for an easy completion. Edelman quickly turned toward the middle of the field and broke into a full sprint. Floyd, who had run a deeper route up the left side, saw Edelman’s path and broke toward the middle of the field to make a block.
All told, Floyd had three receptions for 36 yards and a touchdown, but it was that block on Lippett that turned the most heads on Sunday afternoon in Miami.
And after the victory, both Bill Belichick and Brady spoke to how hard Floyd has worked to get up to speed with the Patriots offense since joining the team just two-and-a-half weeks ago.
“He’s gotten better every day,” Belichick said. “Just works hard. Obviously there’s a lot to learn with our offense and things we ask him to do, but he’s gotten better every day. And he certainly helped us today.”
Brady in particular noted the specific challenge a receiver has in joining a complicated offense so late in the season.
“To come in at this point, like I said, is very tough, because there’s so much installation that’s already been done, and we’ve talked about so many coaching points. And there’s really not the time to make the mistakes any more,” Brady explained. “But he’s a veteran, he’s played for a long time. I think he’s played in some meaningful games. Today, that was an unbelievable touchdown, and then the block was awesome.”
Brady also gave credit to quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who — despite his rookie status — has helped Floyd learn the offense at a rapid pace.
“[Floyd’s] done a great job. He’s put a lot of time and effort in. Jacoby’s done a great job helping him out, to take extra time with him and really nail some things down,” Brady said. “So he went out there and played with a lot of confidence.”
That a rookie quarterback can play such a pivotal role in the assimilation of a receiver so late in a season speaks volumes about the coaching of Belichick and Josh McDaniels, as well as Brissett himself. While that may be a story for another day, for now it is Floyd soaking in some glory for the No. 1-seeded Patriots.
Of course, that performance doesn’t erase Floyd’s history. He’ll still be facing charges on what Arizona law refers to as a “super extreme DUI.” He’ll still be facing the NFL punishment that will come with it. And there will be no way to erase the public memory of the DUI video that was released two weeks ago.
And for the Patriots, the player performing well doesn’t dismiss the very valid debate about the ethics involved with acquiring a player who had just been released by his team in the wake of a DUI arrest. Particularly when the details and the video of the arrest come to light shortly after the acquisition, such a decision is certain to bring questions. And in this case, it has.
But Sunday’s performance showed why, just in time for the playoffs, the Patriots are willing to deal with them.