BOSTON (CBS) — The New England Patriots did not wait long to integrate Antonio Brown into their offense. The receiver made his Patriots debut Sunday afternoon, scoring a touchdown in New England’s blowout win over the Miami Dolphins.
Brown was featured heavily during New England’s first offensive drive against the Miami Dolphins, catching all three passes that Tom Brady sent his way. And he didn’t take too long to find the end zone for the first time as a member of the Patriots, hauling in a 20-yard back-shoulder grab just ahead of halftime to give New England a 13-0 lead.
Antonio Brown’s first TD as a Patriot.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) September 15, 2019
Brown was able to create some separation on cornerback Jomal Wiltz and made a great adjustment to turn around and snare the pass from Brady in the end zone. He celebrated by jumping into the stands, sharing the moment with a few Patriots fans in attendance.
Brown finished the first half with four receptions for 56 yards to lead all New England receivers. He didn’t make a catch the rest of the way, as Brady couldn’t connect with his new receiver on their final four attempts of the afternoon. In all, Brown played 25 offensive snaps (including penalties) in his New England debut.
“We’re making progress. Certainly not there yet,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said of Brown’s efforts.
Brown started the Patriots’ first offensive drive on sideline, but was on field for the second play, lining up in the slot. Brady immediately went to his new receiver, hitting Brown for an 18-yard reception over the middle. Brown lined up on the left side two plays later, hauling in a 10-yard reception on left sideline to move the chains again for New England. He caught another pass from Brady on the left sideline a few plays later, good for eight yards. Brown also drew a defensive holding penalty on Miami corner Xavien Howard in the end zone, setting up Sony Michel for a one-yard touchdown run for the first score of the game.
Brown even took a handoff out of the backfield in the first half, picking up five yards and a first down for New England.
“I don’t think any of us had any doubts about AB’s skill set. I think it was just good for everybody to see it in an actual game,” fellow receiver Josh Gordon said of Brown’s game. “He continues to be what we expect him to be — a great wide receiver and football player. For us, it is a tremendous asset. It takes huge stress off offensive linemen, the running backs, everybody. There’s no way to pinpoint one facet of our offense and try to shut us down. As you just saw, it’s pretty tough to try to contain us. With him, it’s a huge help. Glad to have him.”
“He’s a smart football player,” added receiver Julian Edelman. “He’s played in this league a while. He knows football. It was awesome to get him out there, get him established a little bit.”
Things were a little bumpier in the second half, as Brady and Brown went four straight attempts without a connection. Three of those came in the end zone, and it looked like Brady was forcing passes to his newest receiver. After one attempt where Brady under-threw Brown in the end zone, the QB pointed to his chest to say that was a bad pass on his part.
While it looked like the Patriots were trying to feed the ball to Brown early to get him acclimated to the offense, Belichick disagreed.
“We try to get the ball to the the guy that is open,” replied Belichick. “We haven’t changed that in 20 years.”
It was a strong debut for Brown, with its share of ups and downs. That is to be expected from a player who just joined the team last weekend.
Now we’ll see if his Patriots career will continue, as the NFL will reportedly interview Brown’s former trainer on Monday regarding the civil lawsuit she filed against him last week, accusing the receiver of sexual assault. It’s possible that the league places Brown on the commissioner’s exempt list during their investigation, which would make him ineligible to play.