Dwayne Allen

Could Allen's breakthrough catch be the start of something?

Could Allen's breakthrough catch be the start of something?

Every week in the press box, those who work the Patriots’ beat would wonder “was this the day Dwayne Allen would finally get a catch?” It started midway through September, dragged on into October and finally, it was halfway through November before it happened Sunday night in Denver - an 11-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter as the Pats ran away from the Broncos, 41-16.

“Ahhh, it only took eight games to get my first catch,” Allen said, smiling. “It felt good. It felt good to contribute in a different way to a team win.”

PATRIOTS 41, BRONCOS 16

Allen’s contributions to the Patriots’ success had been unseen to the untrained eye and to the trained one, as well. His blocking - his forte - had been merely average to this point. And hopes that Allen would form a dangerous 1-2 tight-end punch with Rob Gronkowski had gone unrealized. 

The former Colt was rarely targeted by Tom Brady and, on those occasions that the ball did come Allen’s way, it was clear that he and Brady were so far from the same page they might as well have been different books written in different languages. Hard to say that’s changed based on one catch in one game, but it did provide Allen some confirmation that he can still impact this season in a positive manner.

“I hope it’s a lesson for a lot of young guys in this league,” he said. “I came into this league wide-eyed and bushy-tailed and thought everything was going to be given to me and you come here to a winning football club and you learn it takes self-sacrifice. You have to give up yourself for the better of the team and sometimes you’re rewarded with a touchdown.”

Brady had gone to Allen in the red zone in the first half only to see the ball elude the tight end, glancing off his fingertips. In that moment, it looked like the weight of the world was on Allen’s shoulders. The Patriots had placed a great deal of emphasis on improving their red-zone play in the bye week and one of the messages was simple: “Players need to make plays.” Allen had failed there, and considering Brady’s history of shutting out unreliable receivers, it was fair to assume the ball wouldn’t go back to No. 83. But the quarterback gave him one more chance. As usual, Brady made the right choice.

“It feels good to know he’d come back to me,” Allen said. “I’ve got to keep working to make it work, you know?”

Teammate Danny Amendola knows where Allen is coming from considering he’s been there himself. The pint-sized slot wideout had a rocky start to his Patriot career. Through those first couple of years, he was considered a bust of epic proportions only hidden by the fact that Julian Edelman had emerged in the Wes Welker role. Now? Amendola is one of the team’s most beloved players, known for his toughness and one clutch play after another in big games.

“Oh, no question,” said Amendola when I asked him about the similarities between him and Allen. “Dwayne’s such a great player. He does a lot for our team, and to see him get his first score and a big catch was awesome.”

Amendola said he believed it was only a matter of time before we finally saw Allen break through.

“He comes to work every day and works his butt off,” he said. “We respect that. He’ll keep helping us moving forward.”

To Amendola’s point, the touchdown catch wasn’t Allen’s only contribution. He also threw a key block on Dion Lewis’ 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown though when I asked him about it, Allen took zero credit.

“D-Lew does a great job of returning kicks,” he said. “I’m just out there trying not to mess it up.”
 

Five thoughts from Patriots-Broncos: Special teams play is the difference

Five thoughts from Patriots-Broncos: Special teams play is the difference

DENVER -- Here are five quick-hitting thoughts from what transpired between the Broncos and Patriots on Sunday night at Mile High Stadium . . . 

1) Rex Burkhead was a jack-of-all-trades in his third game back from injury. Since returning from a rib issue that kept him out five weeks, Burkhead has seen his snap-count and his usage steadily increase, and in Denver he was featured prominently. He carried six times in the first half for 23 yards, and he caught all three of his targets for 27 yards and a touchdown. He also made one of the biggest special-teams plays of the game, blocking a second-quarter Broncos punt that eventually led to a field goal. He was in on two first-half tackles as a member of the kickoff team as well. Have a day, Rex. When the Patriots signed Burkhead this offseason, they thought he had the ability to contribute in multiple phases. Now that he's healthy, he's proving them right. 

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2) The monkey is finally off of Dwayne Allen's back. Late in the second quarter he made his first catch of the season -- an 11-yard touchdown that made the score 27-9. Tom Brady was fired up to see the tight end make catch No. 1 as a member of the Patriots, and Allen probably felt doubly relieved since he had a potential touchdown pass bounce off of his hands earlier in the quarter. For a player who has done all the right things off the field and in practice, yet still hasn't seen results on the field, the score had to have served as a huge boost of confidence. 

3) Martellus Bennett played two snaps in the first half and caught passes on both. He had a 27-yard catch-and-run on his first play since re-joining the Patriots, and he made a five-yard grab later in the first quarter. Soon thereafter, however Bennett made his way to the medical tent on the Patriots sideline and spent several minutes inside. He did not play at all in the second quarter, though he was spotted chatting briefly with Tom Brady with his helmet in hand. Bennett returned to action in the second half, though he was used sparingly. He caught a six-yard pass in the fourth quarter to give him three grabs for 38 yards on the night. 

4) Special teams play was the difference as the Patriots built up a three-score lead in the first half. And it wasn't all Burkhead. First was the muffed punt by Broncos return man Isaiah McKenzie, which was encouraged by Jonathan Jones' good coverage. Jacob Hollister fell on the ball, and two plays later Brady found Rex Burkhead to open the scoring. What looked like a quick three-and-out for the Broncos defense turned into a 7-0 deficit. Then came Dion Lewis' 103-yard kick return for a score that was sprung by good blocks from Allen, James Develin and Marquis Flowers. Then came Burkhead's block. Former Broncos assistant special teams coach Bill Belichick had to be beaming. 

5) The Patriots put together a big-boy drive when they took possession for the first time in the second half. After the Broncos scored to make it 27-16, Brady and his teammates took over at their own 25 and needed just 3:18 to drive the field. Long-gainers to Rob Gronkowski and Brandin Cooks -- helped by play-action fakes -- set up a Phillip Dorsett catch that was then followed by three hard-charging Lewis runs. His last, from eight yards out, showed his strength as he carried Aqib Talib into the end zone. Suddenly, after the Broncos thought they'd built some momentum, the Patriots were back up three scores, 34-16.

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