Brandon Bolden’s importance to the New England Patriots offense

New England Patriots running back Brandon Bolden (25) Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
New England Patriots running back Brandon Bolden (25) Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports /

New England Patriots fans should be getting into the habit of appreciating running back Brandon Bolden, as he has far exceeded expectations anyone might have had for him in 2021.

Bolden is a 31-year-old big back who has metamorphosed into an all-purpose back who can torpedo a defense in several ways for the Patriots’ offense.

Bolden has been a big factor in the team’s 2021 success, as they are now topping the entire AFC. Let’s take a look at a few reasons why he’s one of the surprises of the year thus far.

Brandon Bolden has stepped up in a big way for the New England Patriots

Not much was expected from Bolden in this space for 2021. He didn’t play in 2020 after opting out due to the COVID pandemic, and at 31 years old, he wasn’t getting any younger, especially for a running back. That was totally wrong.

Bolden has come back to the team this season and excelled in a number of ways. First, when pass-catching back extraordinaire James White went out for the season early, Bolden stepped into his role as the team’s top pass-catching back.

White only played three games and his loss was a significant blow to a Patriots offense led by rookie quarterback Mac Jones. It looked like big trouble in Foxborough.

Yet Bolden entered the scene and took over a good portion of that role. Bolden has racked up 32 catches for 303 yards and a 9.5 yard per catch average. That’s nice production for a 220 pounder.

His production hasn’t just been in the passing game. Bolden has also been an effective runner for the New England Patriots this season. Bolden has 169 yards on 30 carries and a healthy 5.6-yard average thus far this season. One of his most recent big runs was in Week 13 against the Buffalo Bills.

New England Patriots Brandon Bolden came up big against the Buffalo Bills

In the first quarter after a Patriots touchdown, instead of kicking the extra point into a gale wind, head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels dialed up a sweep for Bolden, which he took around the left end into the end zone for the two points. That was an early one-point differential that loomed large later in the game.

The Patriots were holding onto a four-point lead that could have been two with a field goal winning the game had Bolden’s run failed.

This space has been critical at times of some questionable coaching calls this season by New England’s coaching staff. This certainly isn’t one of them.

That was a gutsy, intuitive, veteran, and frankly championship-level call by the Patriots’ coaching staff, and it provided a big early moment that made all the difference subsequently in crunch time. At the end of the game, Buffalo needed a touchdown to win because of Bolden’s clutch two point conversion.

That’s situational coaching, and the execution by Bolden was NFL football at its very best. Hats off to Belichick and McDaniels for that call. It was risky, but it paid big dividends.

Bolden and his fellow running backs did pretty much all of the dirty work in that big divisional game against Buffalo. The running backs combined for 222 yards on the ground, while Jones had a mere 19 yards passing the entire game. In fairness, Jones was only called upon to throw three passes.

He completed two of them, of course. Nonetheless, the precocious young passer is still sporting a healthy 70.3 percent completion percentage in his amazing rookie year.

In addition to his critical two-point conversion, Bolden also had four rushes for 28 yards including a big 16-yarder and an average of 7.0 yards per carry.

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He also had one of the two receptions on the day for the New England Patriots from the rookie sensation Jones against the Bills. That went for an additional seven yards and he added a solo special teams tackle, to boot.

That’s a nice all-around game for the soon-to-be 32-year-old Bolden who’s had a renaissance season as a Patriot so far. The 2021 season is progressing toward its conclusion, but this is certain; Brandon Bolden has been a very influential member of the 2021 New England Patriots, and the team will need him to continue to produce if they want to hold onto the top seed in the AFC.