Even before Mac Jones and the Patriots took the field before a desperate final drive in the fourth quarter, Demario Douglas believed.
Not just in his quarterback and offense’s ability to orchestrate a game-winning drive and stave off what was a crushing collapse in the closing minutes of play.
But also in his own ability to leave his mark on a sputtering offense in desperate need of playmakers.
Granted, that confidence was brewing long before the 22-year-old receiver strapped on his shoulder pads ahead of Sunday’s showdown against the Buffalo Bills.
“I listened to a song before the game, it was crazy,” Douglas noted postgame. “Rod Wave — ‘Shock The World.’ And he said, ‘Look how we shocked the world / Look how he overcame.’”
The pregame playlist proved to be prophetic, given both New England’s shocking 29-25 comeback win over the once-presumed top dog in the division — as well as Douglas’ own breakout performance as the team’s sought-after spark plug.
“It’s a blessing,” Douglas said after New England’s victory over Buffalo. “It’s a blessing to come back and play for the team. I felt like this game, we all play for each other. There was no ‘I’. We all played for each other until the end, play for 60 minutes.”
Jones and his fourth-quarter heroics on New England’s last drive will deservedly draw most of the headlines from Sunday’s victory.
But after weeks of offensive ineptitude, New England’s fourth-quarter rally was just the cherry on top of a much-needed rebound performance from that unit.
With a reworked offensive line keeping Jones upright and Bill O’Brien dialing up more RPOs (run-pass options) and pre-snap motions, New England’s offense managed to accrue 364 total yards of offense.
After not reaching the red zone in 29 straight possessions earlier this month, six of New England’s nine drives against Buffalo made it within the Bills’ 20-yard line.
Pass protection looms large in the wake of New England’s pass offensive output in recent memory. But it should also not come as much of a surprise that New England reeled off multiple chunk-yardage plays with Douglas earning an uptick in reps.
With JuJu Smith-Schuster ruled out for the second straight game due to a concussion, Douglas — back after missing Week 6 due to a concussion — served as one of Jones’ most reliable targets and delivered.
Through the air, he reeled in four of his six targets for 54 yards. His lone rushing play of the afternoon went for 20 yards — the longest gain on the ground for the Patriots all season long. He also drew two penalties, one of which put New England in a first-and-goal situation in the final minute of play.
“I play with confidence,” Douglas said. “ I don’t want that first person to tackle me. … The ball is coming my way? I need to make that play. I’m trying to make it a 75-25 ball, not a 50-50.”
Even on special teams, Douglas made his presence felt with a 25-yard pickup off a punt return. New England started at Buffalo’s 43-yard line thanks to Douglas’ efforts in the second quarter, eventually leading to a field goal from Chad Ryland.
New England’s offense may not be as impotent as the dysfunctional unit we saw struggle to even gain first downs earlier this year against the Jets, Saints, and Raiders.
But the Patriots are still severely lacking when it comes to high-end talent and speed, especially among its crop of receiving options for Jones. New England’s motions helped open things up against Buffalo, but Douglas is one of the fewer plays on this roster capable of creating separation and extending plays thanks to his own skill set.
“Big spark,” Kendrick Bourne said of Douglas’ game. “Starting the game [well] on certain bubbles and YAC-ing [yards after catching] the ball, running the ball well.
“Just proud of that guy. The way he came back from injury and was just locked in, it was good to see. … [Bill O’Brien] puts us in position to make the play and we can make it better by really being locked into the details of it. You see a lot of those YACs and Mac being on the same page, you’ll see a lot [more] of those YAC plays.”
Sunday’s victory over the Bills may not signal that a second-half surge sits on the horizon for a Patriots team still in the midst of a 2-5 start.
But a win is still a win, and Sunday’s showing offered up hope that New England’s offense has plenty more to give in the weeks ahead.
If New England wants to stack performances like this, Douglas needs to keep getting the call in critical junctures of a game.
“I’m just happy to be on the field,” Douglas said. “I missed last week and coming back this week? It’s a blessing. And getting the dub? God is good.”
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