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.”
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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.”