Patriots

Patriots

FOXBORO -- N'Keal Harry's almost-touchdown will receive plenty of attention over the course of the next few days, and maybe more than that as the Patriots try to figure out where they fit in the AFC playoff picture. 

Receiving less attention is the fact that Harry played only two offensive snaps in the game, his fourth regular-season contest since returning to action off of injured reserve last month. Harry played 22 snaps last week in a loss to the Texans -- his lone target going for a game-changing interception -- but clearly was not a significant part of Sunday's game plan against the Chiefs.

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Harry left the loss to Kansas City with what the Patriots announced as a hip injury. He said after the game, however, that he was "good" health-wise. 

That he only saw two snaps before getting banged up is curious given that the Patriots appear to need all the help they can get at the moment on the offensive side of the football. Harry clearly has a long way to go before he's entrusted by Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady, but he also has physical skills -- skills he flashed on his near touchdown catch-and-run -- that could be useful.

Harry's two snaps Sunday consisted of his in-motion under route that resulted in his 12-yard catch. (That was the first time on 70 routes this season -- we analyzed them all here -- that Harry went in motion.) He also ran a clear-out vertical route on a fourth-down pass play that was intended for Julian Edelman but landed incomplete. 

 

In Houston, Harry ran five deep overs or dig routes. He ran three go routes, two shallow crossers, a comeback route and a hitch. He split his time almost evenly on the left and right sides of the formation and played one snap in the slot. That represented a reduction in workload for the rookie who played 55 snaps against the Cowboys in Week 11 as one of only three receivers active for the game.

While his snaps have almost disappeared, if he's healthy enough, perhaps the Patriots will try to find more ways to get the football into his hands more quickly. He showed something on his one touch Sunday. He's a large person (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) who has athleticism and is hard to tackle. At Arizona State he was a frequent recipient of short passes like the one he saw Sunday, taking them and making yards after the catch on his own.

His inability to grasp the nuances of the Patriots offense is relatively evident. Whether it was the way his ran the route in Houston that resulted in a pick, or if it was prior to his catch Sunday when he had to ask Brady about his responsibilities just before the ball was snapped, he's not fully up to speed. 

But this Patriots offense needs any and all answers it can find. Maybe Harry's second (and final) snap against the Chiefs told them he deserves more work next week in Cincinnati. If not, then it's fair to wonder if he's even more behind than we can tell.

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