By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Patriots offense started to sputter again. They faced a third-and-10 from their own 16-yard line. The Browns had just finished an impressive drive with a field goal to cut the Patriots' lead to seven. It felt like momentum was starting to tilt the Browns' way in the second half.
Then James White caught a screen pass.
Fifty-nine yards later, as White serpentined through the Browns secondary on a game-changing catch-and-run, suddenly the Patriots had a first-and-10 at the Cleveland 25-yard line instead of possibly punting it away to that same spot. Josh McDaniels made a timely play-call to order the third-and-long screen, and he doesn't always cover himself in glory in those moments. Left guard Joe Thuney - who amid offensive line struggles has emerged as the best, most reliable player in that group - threw a block on linebacker Joe Schobert to help spring White for the huge gain.
Tom Brady needed his most dependable guys to come up big on that particular drive. White certainly came through, and Edelman hit the capper with a 14-yard touchdown, his second of the game, which effectively kept the Browns at bay for the rest of regulation.
"Yeah, we need every yard we can get out there," said Brady when asked about how badly the Pats needed White's catch-and-run. It was a great call by Josh [McDaniels] and great execution by the O-line, and James is a great screen runner. So, just a great play, good timing."
White has embodied Bill Belichick's mantra of "Dependability is more important than ability" throughout his five-plus seasons in the NFL. And for a Patriots offense that is still struggling to find consistency, White remains a model of it. It might've been the least surprising development in the game that the Patriots could rely on him to make that 59-yard play in that moment.
"I mean, James is probably the most dependable player on the team," said Edelman. "He never does anything wrong. And it's just - he's an outstanding football player that makes plays when the team needs him to.
"He never has a bad day. And that's why he's one of the big leaders on our team. So you expect nothing less from a guy like him."
The Patriots still needed to finish the drive off, because giving the ball back to the Browns without scoring would have made things a little squirrelly. But instead the Patriots turned to their own squirrel, an unusually large and musclebound one wearing No. 11.
Edelman's second touchdown exemplified his radar-like connection with Brady, as well as his tenacity and awareness to find space. He wasn't open at first, but Edelman slipped away from Schobert and found the opening he needed. Brady bought an extra second in the pocket then found Edelman over the middle. And the Patriots rediscovered the momentum that felt like it was dwindling before the drive.
"Jules found a little sweet spot in there and glad I was able to get it to him," said Brady on the play. "He made two really good catch-and-runs kind of near the goal line. It was great plays by him."
— Casey Baker (@CaseyBake16) October 27, 2019
Brady went 12-for-16 for 153 yards and both of his touchdowns throwing to Edelman and White - a 144.0 passer rating. Throwing to everyone else, he went 8-for-20 for 106 yards, a rating of 57.5.
The Patriots' decision to place Josh Gordon on injured reserve, which will eventually lead to his release, was ostensibly a statement by Bill Belichick to his offense. If we can't depend on you on Sundays, it doesn't matter how talented you are - you won't last long. Edelman and White have endured for as long as any weapons Brady has ever had. And it's not that they lack ability. But they are brimming with dependability, and that's why the Pats turned to them on a must-have drive.
As the offense continues to seek consistency, they can be sure they'll get it out of Edelman and White on a weekly basis.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].