Patriots

Patriots

FOXBORO - If there's one positive to come out of all the injuries that the Patriots have sustained on offense, it's the emergence of James White as a capable pass-catching back.

Just how out of the picture was White when it came to his role on the Patriots offense at one point this season? Well, when Dion Lewis blew out his ACL in Week 9 against the Redskins, White wasn't available to fill-in for him for that game because he was a healthy scratch.

Drafted in the fourth round last season, White had little to no effect on the team's performance, dressing for just three regular season games in his rookie season. His second year wasn't a whole lot better to start. Though White was active in more games, he still wasn't getting much of an opportunity to contribute.

But the season-ending injury to Lewis has changed things, and though it's taken a few games, White had a breakout game on Sunday against the Eagles.

He finished with 10 receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown, and proved to be a big factor in the team's fourth-quarter comeback attempt.

Consider that White came into the game with 17 receptions for 118 yards in his career, the 115-yard performance is a bit of a pleasant surprise.

The 115 yards is the fourth-most receiving yards in Patriots history by a running back, and second-highest since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger (trailing Shane Vereen's 153 yards vs. Cleveland on Dec. 8, 2013). His 10 catches tied him for the fifth-most by a running back in team history, too.

White's touchdown came in the second quarter and put the Patriots on the board first, as Tom Brady hit him with an easy four-yard throw near the right sideline.

But it was his seven catches in the fourth quarter spanning the Patriots' three drives that told the story. Brady looked to White more than any other receiver in that quarter, and that includes two fourth-down conversions. There's undoubtedly a higher level of trust between the quarterback and the running back now than there was earlier in the season.

"He did a great job," Brady said of White. "He really came up big for us when we needed it a few times on fourth down tonight, made some big plays in the pass-game, was good in protection. He's done a great job for us. He's got a significant role. We'll need him all the way down the stretch here."

The Patriots aren't in the business of silver linings, but having White as another option at Brady's disposal when Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman return could be a game-changer once the playoffs come around.