SANTA CLARA – It looks like the Patriots have something in Malcolm Mitchell.
On Sunday, the fourth-round rookie from Georgia had the kind of game a homegrown Patriots perimeter wideout hasn’t had in a very long time. Four catches for 98 yards – one for a 56-yard score, two of them pivotal catches on a scoring drive that helped the Patriots get separation – and some outstanding downfield blocking to boot.
Opportunity knocked for Mitchell, said Bill Belichick.
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“It was great for him to step up and take advantage of this opportunity,” Belichick said. "We really needed that without (injured wideout Chris Hogan). I thought all the receivers did, Julian (Edelman), Danny (Amendola) and Malcolm. You know, Malcolm had some big catches over the middle, the in-cut, he had a good slant route then the scramble on the over-route concept. I thought maybe the best play he had was the blocking he did on (LeGarrette Blount’s) long run in the first quarter. That was a 20-yard gain that ended up being a (44-yard) gain. Malcolm competed hard. He always works hard. He’s a smart kid. He got an opportunity today and he certainly stepped up and took advantage of it. That’s what our team needed. We had a lot of guys do that really. We have guys on both sides of the ball and the kicking game (that stepped up given opportunities).”
Mitchell’s first catch of the day came in the first half on a 13-yard slant. His next one though may have been his most important. On third-and-9, one play after Tom Brady overshot Julian Edelman for a long gain, Brady found Mitchell on a deep in-cut for 21 yards to extend the drive. That ignited a quick flurry of first-down throws for Brady who hit James White and Martellus Bennett for 14 yarders right after that then hit Mitchell on a smoke screen for another 8 yards when he put his shoulder down instead of throwing a juke party on the outside.
The play that will be shown repeatedly, though, was the 56-yarder on which Brady bought time, moved forward in the collapsing pocket and got rid of the ball just as he was hauled down from behind by linebacker Ahmad Brooks.
“It was a scramble play so I was just trying to get open,” said Mitchell. “Tom being who he is, he found me.
His thought process after the catch?
“Don’t get caught,” he said. “I broke away one or two times before and kind of got chased down so I was just trying not to get caught.”
Mitchell definitely has a fan in Brady.
“He shows up every day with his hard hat on ready to go to work,” said the quarterback. “I’ve just been impressed with him since the day he came in and just his personality’s infectious. He a very positive person and he made a great play today, made a lot of great plays. He’s growing along with everyone else. It’s been really great to see.”
Great to see because, after myriad swings and misses on drafted wideouts aside from the gold they struck with Edelman in the seventh round of 2009 (Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, Chad Jackson, Taylor Price, etc) Mitchell definitely looks like a long-term impact player.