By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — A week ago, N’Keal Harry stood at his locker, surrounded by a crowd of reporters eager to talk to him after his first big game in the NFL. There, Harry confidently declared, ” I’m about to turn it up a notch.”
This is likely not what he had in mind.
The rookie receiver, playing in his third career game, ran a slant route on a third-and-4 late in the first quarter. In what turned out to be his first and only target of the evening, Harry allowed cornerback Bradley Roby to get around and then in front of him, picking off Tom Brady’s pass deep in New England territory.
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A closer look at the play shows that after Harry felt Roby applying pressure from behind, the receiver slowed his route and then eventually fell away from the ball instead of fighting toward it.
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“Um … I mean, I guess I could’ve used my body more,” Harry said, according to NBC Sports Boston. “But like I said I haven’t watched it on film. I gotta see it first.”
Given the swiftness with which he was removed from the game (and the game plan), it might be fair to surmise that this type of route running is something that’s been brought up to Harry in meeting rooms and on the practice field. After the game, Brady didn’t feel much like breaking down the X’s and O’s of the play.
“I threw it and they got it,” Brady said. “Bad result.”
In a game where the offense desperately needed a play maker, Harry didn’t see another ball thrown his way for the rest of the night. Meanwhile, fellow rookie Jakobi Meyers ended up with seven targets, catching three for 46 yards. He’d play just 12 more snaps over the final three quarters.
Harry didn’t have much to say on his reduced role after the pick, but he now has just four receptions for 28 yards (and an impressive touchdown) in his first three NFL games.
Sunday’s loss hardly falls solely on Harry’s shoulders, as the offense, defense and even the special teams took turns struggling over the course of the 28-23 loss. Still, his activation from IR prior to Week 11 provided some optimism that Tom Brady would have a new potent weapon to utilize in an offense that was barely surviving. Thus far, Harry’s yet to deliver on that promise, and Sunday night’s performance represented a noticeable step backward.