BOSTON (CBS) — Sunday night’s clash between the Patriots and the Seahawks had it all. Cam Newton looked every bit like Cam Newton of old, Russell Wilson put on a show of his own, and both defenses made some highlight plays despite the high-scoring affair.
While Newton is getting all of the attention, and receivers Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry are snagging some of the spotlight after having career evenings, we’d be silly not to discuss the return of an important wrinkle to the New England offense: A threat at fullback.
Chances are he won’t be the game-changer that James Develin quietly and violently became in the Patriots offense, but Jakob Johnson showed that he can hold his own Sunday night. The fullback played a shade under a quarter of New England’s offensive snaps, and in addition to providing a little more protection for Newton, Johnson found the end zone in the fourth quarter for his first career touchdown.
With the Patriots trailing 28-17 in the opening minute of the fourth, Newton took a shotgun snap from the one-foot line and faked a run. It was just a simple step forward, but it made the Seattle defense bite hard, and left Johnson wide open in the end zone. Newton connected with the fullback for his first passing touchdown with the Patriots.
cc: @patsdeutsch 🇩🇪
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) September 21, 2020
It’s unfortunate that the Patriots didn’t save the play in their bag of tricks for the game’s final goal-line play, but it was a crucial score for New England at the time. It was an even bigger deal for Johnson, who became the first player from the NFL’s international player program to score a touchdown. He is also just the second player from Germany to find the end zone in an NFL game.
“I did not know that, but that’s awesome,” said Johnson, a native of Stuttgart, Germany. “I’m sure later on that will sink in, but I’ll watch the film and figure this game out first.”
Johnson played college football at Tennessee from 2014-17, initially playing linebacker before making the move to tight end. His next stop was with the Stuttgart Scorpions in the German Football League in 2018, before Bill Belichick brought him into the mix through the International Player Pathway program as an undrafted free agent.
With Develin playing just two games due to what became a career-ending neck injury last season, Johnson saw action in four games for the Patriots in 2019. He made three starts and caught one of the two passes that went his way. While fullbacks are never a feature of the offense, it appears Johnson could become one of those unsung components of New England’s success.
Develin had four touchdowns in 2018 and was an important part of Tom Brady’s offense, another line of defense for the quarterback and an undeterred blocker for running backs. He was a key piece to an offense that morphed into a run-heavy unit, rushing all the way to a Super Bowl. He earned loads of respect through his career for delivering some truly monster blocks to help spring Patriots runners, occasionally finding the end zone along the way.
We’ll see what Johnson can develop into, but he showed some good signs on Sunday night. And even after a pretty important evening career-wise, the 25-year-old had the usual-New England approach to his performance.
“A loss is a loss,” he said after New England’s 35-30 defeat. “There will be a lot of stuff to get better from on this film. That’s what I’ll focus on, and then on to the next game.”