White flashes power on game-winning plunge: 'I just put my shoulder down'

White flashes power on game-winning plunge: 'I just put my shoulder down'

FOXBORO -- James White has heard it before.

He has trouble fighting through contact. He goes down too easily. He's more a receiver than a runner.

But when the Patriots had the ball, second-and-goal from the two-yard line in overtime, with a chance to win the Super Bowl, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels called White's number.


He took Tom Brady's toss to the right, followed right tackle Marcus Cannon outside the numbers, and was met by safety Ricardo Allen right at the line of scrimmage. For an instant, it looked like McDaniels might have to dial up a play for third-and-goal. 

That's when White churned his legs, lowered his shoulder, and reached for the end zone. His last-ditch effort, a rare show of power at the goal line, earned his team its fifth Lombardi Trophy. Confetti rained. 

The play capped what was the game of White's life. He was Tom Brady's most reliable target, catching a Super Bowl record 14 passes for 110 yards, and will head to Disney World on Monday morning for his efforts. But the goal-line touchdown, the type of short-yardage play that the Patriots typically don't ask him to execute, was a retort of sorts for the criticism he's received when it comes to his perceived lack physicality. 

"I mean, people are going to say a lot of things," White said. "I kind of tune it out. I know what I can do. Coaches know what I can do. When I get the ball in my hand, I just try to make a smart play.

"I'm not the biggest guy so I'm not going to try to run through people all the time. At that point on the goal line, got three yards to go, you just gotta find a way to get it in the end zone. I had blocks in front of me. They made the perfect blocks, I just put my shoulder down and ran through it."

Bill Belichick explained after the game that the play probably would have been called for Dion Lewis had Lewis not injured himself on the last play of regulation, a fake kneel-down. LeGarrette Blount was typically the go-to back for the Patriots on the goal line throughout the season, but with Atlanta's defensive line getting penetration, and with its linebackers chasing down plays from behind, the speedier Lewis would have been the No. 1 option for the toss. 

With Lewis out, it fell to White. 

"We just didn't subtitute at that point, where Dion went out there right at the end of the game, cramped up a little bit," Belichick said. "But look, James is a good runner. He has good vision. He does a good job of finding the openings.

"He's not a guy that's going to run over a lot of defensive linemen, but he's quick and he's got good balance . . . He's a good football player. Two years ago [in the Super Bowl] he was inactive. He's had two great years for us."

White gashed the Falcons for large chunks of the game, running angle routes out of the backfield and forcing multiple missed tackles to pick up 75 yards after the catch, per Pro Football Focus.

But he was also the go-to option on the goal line late in the fourth quarter to bring the Patriots to within a two-point conversion of a tie in the final seconds. He was also the choice for a crucial two-point conversion off of a direct snap in the fourth quarter to make the score 28-20 -- a throwback to when Kevin Faulk ran a similar play for two in Super Bowl XXXVIII, also in Houston.

In the biggest game of his life, the player who saw more than twice as many targets as he did rushing attempts (86-to-39), White was an all-purpose back. 

"James will do whatever you ask him to do," McDaniels said. "He did some chipping, he hit the defensive ends in protection. He caught the ball out of the backfield. He ran the ball in some critical situations for us. He's a guy that I would say epitomizes the be-ready-to-do-whatever's-asked-of-you role.

"We didn't practice some of those plays with James White in the game, but that's the way the game went, you know? James stayed in there, knew what to do -- always knows what to do -- and made the plays in critical situations to help us win."

Martellus Bennett: NFL players just want to smoke weed and play video games

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Martellus Bennett: NFL players just want to smoke weed and play video games

Martelllus Bennett was released by the Patriots earlier this month after reappearing for a two-game cameo following his controversial exit from Green Bay last season.

As he ponders whether to play again, it's probably to safe to guess what he's been spending his time doing. It's what he says all NFL players want to do in the offseason. 

The outspoken tight end talked about the goals of every NFL player in an interview with Complex's "Out of Bounds". 

"You hand the guy a book and they're like...get that thing away from me!" Bennett said, laughing as he fumbled a book. "That thing is the devil. A book? That's the devil!"

Change to pass-interference rule is WAY overdue

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Change to pass-interference rule is WAY overdue

Yes, please, on the proposed adjustment to defensive pass interference. No, thank you on the revised catch rule.

And I know I'm going to have my dreams crushed on both counts.

Despite all the arm-flapping and breath wasted that "NOBODY KNOWS WHAT A CATCH IS ANYMORE!!!!", long-distance pass interference has been a bigger bugaboo for the league for a much longer time.

In 2017, there were 129 pass interference calls longer than 15 yards. The proposed rule change that will be debated at next week's NFL Annual Meeting will make pass interference a 15-yard penalty unless it's egregious and intentional. In those cases, it will continue to be a spot foul

So overdue. For too long offenses have been rewarded by officials on 50-50 balls where DBs and receivers engage in subtle handfighting. It's absolutely illogical to expect middle-aged officials in okay (or worse) shape to keep pace with Gronk-sized receivers and whippet-quick defenders, then make calls on plays 40 yards downfield.

If you're going to throw a flag that gives the offense 40 yards, there should be an extreme degree of certainty accompanies that flag. And too often, the officials are forced to make educated guesses. Next thing you know, Joe Flacco and Rex Grossman are in the Super Bowl.

It's probably the most difficult penalty to call in football, yet it carries the greatest punishment for a defense? What sense does that make? 

I actually think the NFL should go a step beyond and make pass interference reviewable. I'll even make this concession -- it's reviewable only for DPI that puts the ball inside the 10 and is longer than 15 yards. How's that?

"More reviews?!?!? We don't need more reviews?!?!?!"

Okay, but you'll accept them when a dimwit coach argues a spot on a three-yard run that may or may not mean a first down, but not on a play that hands the offense half the field? Come on. Forward thinking.

As for the contention corners are going to begin bludgeoning receivers once they realize they're being beaten deep -- BAM! -- that's where you get the aggravated pass interference (API . . . trademarked 2018) that can be dropped on their heads.

A DB that doesn't turn to face the ball and runs through a receiver? An arm bar all the way downfield preventing a receiver from getting his hands up? A way-too-early arrival? That's API and it's a spot foul. What are the possible negative consequences?

It will now spawn debate as to what's aggravated PI and just garden variety PI. And it asks officials to make another judgment call.

But the truth is, it already is -- in many cases -- a judgment call. And if I were an official reaching for my flag on a Hail Mary from the 43 at the end of the game where there was jostling, I'd sure as hell be happy that I have the option to call garden variety PI and put the ball at the 28 rather than put the ball at the 1.

It's a rule change that makes the game better. That way you don't have calls like this or this. This 55-yarder would be an API (defender hugs Crabtree).

Tellingly, there's no outcry about the need to reform pass interference NOW like there is about the catch rule. You know what needs to happen? A few more plays like this where the Patriots profit. Then you'll see a damn MOVEMENT!