Brandon LaFell: Remembering Underrated New England Patriots

The 2014 New England Patriots were arguably the most talented team of the past decade. This team was one of the most balanced in recent memory, with Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Julian Edelman leading a high-powered offense while complemented on defense by Darrelle Revis, Devin McCourty, Dont’a Hightower, and Chandler Jones. However, one of the more overlooked parts of that unit was wide receiver Brandon LaFell.

LaFell wasn’t the biggest name of the group, but he was a valuable and underrated part of that roster. With all official football activities canceled or postponed, there’s never been a better time to look back at the somewhat-forgotten players from the peak of the Patriots dynasty.

Remembering Underrated New England Patriots: Brandon LaFell

After spending the first four years of his career with the Carolina Panthers, the Patriots signed LaFell to a three-year, $9 million contract early in free agency. At the time, the Patriots were looking for someone reliable to start opposite Edelman. New England hadn’t found a true fit for this role in quite some time, as Brandon Tate, Chad Ochocinco, and Brandon Lloyd all left something to be desired during their runs with the team. Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins both had their moments as rookies, but Bill Belichick wanted to bring in more competition for the youngsters.

Oddly enough, LaFell looked like a total bust during his first few weeks with the Patriots. Brady looked to LaFell six times during New England’s season opener, but the duo didn’t connect a single time. The connection looked even worse in Week 2, as LaFell ended the game without a single target.

The connection started to show some signs of life over the next few games. In Week 3 against the Oakland Raiders, Brady and LaFell connected for a first down after pressure forced Brady to scramble out of the pocket and improvise. LaFell actually had a good game in Week 4’s infamous blowout loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, recording six receptions for 119 yards and a touchdown.

However, his impressive performance was overshadowed by a Patriots team that just didn’t look right. Brady wasn’t himself, and some were openly questioning whether a quarterback change was on the way. The Patriots faced off against a white-hot Cincinnati Bengals team in Week 5, and they needed a statement.

Brandon LaFell Comes Alive

The Patriots were On to Cincinnati in Week 5 and started the game with the ball. After a slow September and a week of non-stop questions about the state of the Patriots dynasty, New England needed to start off hot. The Patriots started arguably the most important drive of Dynasty 2.0 by looking for LaFell. Brady connected with the first-year Patriot for a 20-yard gain, starting what would be a season-defining touchdown drive. The Patriots won that game in convincing fashion, but that was just the beginning for LaFell’s rise in Foxboro.

Over the next 11 games, Brandon LaFell recorded 63 receptions for 768 yards and nine touchdowns. If extrapolated over a 16-game sample, LaFell would have recorded 92 receptions for 1,117 yards and nine touchdowns. The first-year Patriot was as reliable as they come, making a contribution in every single game down the stretch.

LaFell’s best game of the regular season came in Week 8 against the Chicago Bears. Brady targeted LaFell 11 times that night, and LaFell caught every single target for 124 yards and one touchdown. He also had a fantastic game against Buffalo where he recorded four receptions for 97 yards and two touchdowns.

The 2014 Patriots team is best remembered for breaking the decade-long stretch without a championship, and they couldn’t have done it without Brandon LaFell. During New England’s three-game postseason run, LaFell recorded 13 receptions for 119 yards and two touchdowns. The most noteworthy play of his postseason run came when he hauled in the game-winning touchdown in the AFC Divisional Round on an absolute gem by Brady.

2015

LaFell’s first season in New England was an unquestioned success, but he couldn’t follow it up in 2015. The former third-round pick suffered a foot injury and started the year on the PUP list. He returned in Week 7 against the New York Jets, but clearly wasn’t his old self.

LaFell battled drops and inconsistency throughout an undeniably disappointing season. Overall, LaFell finished the year with 37 receptions for 515 yards and zero touchdowns on 74 targets. During the offseason, the Patriots decided to part ways with LaFell, releasing him while pursuing Chris Hogan in restricted free agency.

LaFell might not have had the longest tenure in New England, but he was absolutely crucial to the 2014 Super Bowl victory. The wide receiver provided some much-needed security on the outside, was a first down machine, and came through in some of the biggest moments of the season.

Main photo:
Embed from Getty Images


(Comments, if enabled, are below this video.)


Warning: Use of undefined constant TDC_PATH_LEGACY - assumed 'TDC_PATH_LEGACY' (this will throw an Error in a future version of PHP) in /data/www/ms.lastwordonsports.com/wp-content/plugins/td-composer/td-composer.php on line 107

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.