FOXBORO — Tom Brady smiled wide as he spoke to the newest member of the Patriots offense inside the Patriots locker room Sunday night. Seemed like, as far as Brady was concerned, Mohamed Sanu was already fitting in just fine.
"Great job, man," Brady said as he went in for a hug. "That's awesome."
Sanu ended up playing 36 snaps in his Patriots debut, a 27-13 win over the Browns. It wasn't a full workload, but he was able to do a little bit of everything in his first live foray into the Patriots offense.
He played in the slot and outside. He blocked. He caught two passes for 23 yards. And he got to see how the Patriots celebrate.
"[Matthew] Slater gave probably the best postgame speech I've ever heard in my life," he said. "I mean, it was unbelievable. I was ready to go play another whole game. I was like, 'What!?' They were like, 'He does this after every game.' I was like, 'Wow.' It was incredible."
It was the culmination of a busy week for the 30-year-old receiver. On Tuesday, the Patriots sent a second-round pick to the Falcons in order to acquire Sanu. He quickly made his way to Foxboro from Cincinnati without even a change of clothes, he said.
🏈 PATRIOTS 27, BROWNS 13
- Belichick becomes third coach to 300 career wins
- Edelman: Bill Belichick 'is a machine'
- Curran: A million details add up
On Wednesday, Bill Belichick joked that he and Sanu had gone "way back" to Sanu's days at Rutgers when he was teammates with Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon and Steve Belichick. (He missed Jason McCourty by a year.) Sanu practiced with the Patriots for the first time Wednesday afternoon.
Through the week, he put in extra time with receivers coach Joe Judge and assistant Troy Brown, watching film and going over formations. At night, he took part in walkthroughs with younger receivers on the team, trying to get as much as he could of the Patriots offense down before the Browns got to town.
Between Judge, Brown, Brady, Josh McDaniels, Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett, Sanu had plenty of mentors to lean on.
"He worked really hard," Belichick said. "He spent a lot of extra time with everybody, especially Joe and Troy. Obviously, Josh, Tom and the other receivers, Phil and Jules and those guys. But he worked hard, and I thought he gained a lot of ground on the offense. Hopefully, he'll be further ahead next week but I'm glad he's here and hopefully he'll be able to contribute for us."
"I think it’s just going to be more and more confidence as he keeps going," Brady said. "He made a huge catch for us on fourth down, had a good crosser that he made a nice catch on, so keep just trying to find ways to get him the ball."
Brady tried to get Sanu the ball on the first drive of the game. On a second-and-nine snap, Sanu ran a quick stop route from the slot between two defenders. Brady's pass was low and to Sanu's left — he might've anticipated that Sanu would stop sooner — and it glanced off the receiver's hands incomplete.
🏈 PATRIOTS 27, BROWNS 13
- White's long scamper sparks Pats offense to life
- Kraft hands game ball to Belichick, trolls Jets
- Why Freddie Kitchens made his strange 4th down decision
It wasn't until the first play of the next drive that Sanu really made an impact play. On a crack toss to the left of the offensive formation, Sanu motioned down toward the line and laid a block on defensive end Myles Garrett. Sony Michel ran for seven yards, and Sanu was settled in.
"Gotta get that first contact to get your blood flowing," he said after the game. Then it's like, 'All right. Cool. Time to lock in.' "
In the second quarter, Sanu made his first catch on a fourth-down play that served as statement to anyone who's watched the Patriots offense over the years. Brady's trust in critical spots isn't easily earned. That he was willing to throw to his newest teammate on a fourth-down snap early in the game spoke volumes.
It served as an indication that the offense was short on chain-moving options after Edelman and James White. It also made it pretty clear that — whether it was based on his history with the Falcons or simply where Sanu was situated on the field for that particular play — Brady believed in him as a go-to option with a turnover on downs looming if it didn't go well.
If Sanu wasn't at the right depth, if his hands weren't ready, the Patriots were giving the football away.
Not only was he ready, not only was he at just the right depth (the Browns actually challenged the spot unsuccessfully), but the play was the result of Sanu picking up Brady's "alert" signal before the snap and remembering an adjustment Brady told him about early in the week. If the Browns brought pressure against that particular alignment with Sanu as "No. 3" — the inner-most option in a three-receiver alignment — he'd have to react quickly.
The Browns sent five pass-rushers, and Sanu recalled back to the hot route Brady told him about early in the week.
"He saw the same thing I saw," Sanu said. "We was on the same page, and I just made sure I was at the right place at the right time for him. We talked about it earlier in the week. He was like, 'Just be prepared if we're in this formation and this...' [That's] exactly what happened. Exactly. I saw him, I saw it, and I was like, 'Bet.' We just executed."
They executed again later in the game when Brady threw one of several pinpoint passes on the night to Sanu on a deep over route in the fourth quarter. As Sanu trotted out of bounds with a first down, the Gillette Stadium crowd cheered, "SANUUUUUU!"
"We're gonna get more of that going," Sanu said of the response. "We're gonna get more of that going . . . I heard it. I was like, 'All right.' It gave me a little more juice."
The Patriots are hoping Sanu will give their offense more juice moving forward as he picks up more and more with each game plan. There's certainly room for growth as that side of the ball went 7-for-18 on third and fourth-down conversion attempts and 2-for-6 in the red zone against Cleveland.
As Brady left the locker room to handle his postgame media responsibilities, he told Sanu to come back ready to work. They had one game in the books together, and while there was enough there to make the quarterback (a quarterback who reportedly pushed for Sanu to be New England's trade target ahead of the deadline) smile wide after the fact, they knew they'd only scratched the surface of what they should be able to do after some time together.
"Once I get my feet wet a little more," Sanu said, "we're gonna have some fun."
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.