FOXBORO, Mass. — Brandon Bolden has turned back the clock in his return to the New England Patriots. The running back, now in his eighth NFL season, is a surprisingly key contributor in the Patriots’ offense.
Bolden shares the team lead in total touchdowns with three scores over six games. Sony Michel and Phillip Dorsett also have three touchdowns.
Bolden has 12 carries for 45 yards with two touchdowns and five catches for 72 yards with another touchdown in five games this season (he sat out Week 2 with a hamstring injury). He had three carries for 23 yards and a touchdown and two catches for 22 yards Thursday night in the Patriots’ 35-14 win over the New York Giants. He also blocked a punt, which linebacker Chase Winovich returned for a touchdown.
Bolden’s playing time on offense is a bit of a throwback for the running back, who had a role in his first four seasons in the NFL until his workload was significantly scaled back in 2016. Bolden had just 17 total offensive touches between 2016 and 2017 before he left for the Miami Dolphins in 2018. Bolden primarily focused on special teams in those years.
“I’m just trying to do what they call me to do,” Bolden said. “If it’s out there to rush a punt, I’m going to rush it. If it’s to catch a pass, I’ll do the best I can to catch it. If it’s out there to run the ball, I’m going to put my head down and try to get some yards.”
The Patriots failed to convert in a short-yardage situation on three straight handoffs to Sony Michel in the first quarter. So, when the Patriots got near the goal line midway through the second quarter, they turned to Bolden, who pounded the ball in for a touchdown on his second attempt.
“They trust me with the ball,” Bolden said. “As much as I can show I appreciate them and try to get it in there.”
Judging by the reception Bolden was receiving from teammates in the locker room, it seems fellow Patriots players are happy for the veteran running back’s success this season. Running back James White was quick to point out Bolden has touchdowns in three consecutive games now.
“He is a leader on this team, he is a very selfless player and he does a lot for us,” wide receiver Julian Edelman said. “It is always good to see him go out there and make plays because he deserves it with how hard he works and the kind of guy he is in the locker room. He is just a great guy to be around and I love that dude.”
Even when Bolden was a regular offensive contributor early in his career, the Patriots always seemed hesitant to go into a game with him as their primary running back. Bolden’s role on special teams is important, so it’s best to manage his workload.
“Brandon is a talented guy,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. “He can play on all four downs and play well. We’re very fortunate to have him. He gives us great depth and is just another good football player to put on the field.”
Bolden’s blocked punt was a major play in the game and gave the Patriots an early 7-0 lead late in the first quarter.
“I just made contact with (Giants linebacker Nathan Stupar), and as I was driving him back, I really had two options: Either throw him into the punter or stick my hand up,” Bolden said. “I stuck my hand up, and the ball really just hit off my hand. It was luck at that point.”
He actually did both. Riley Dixon’s punt bounced off Stupar and Bolden’s hand.
Chase Winovich comes up with the blocked punt for the Pats and scores!! #NYGvsNE pic.twitter.com/pQUxW5F5tc
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) October 11, 2019
Thursday night’s win was one of those games that showed off Bolden’s entire skillset. He’s not a player the Patriots should be depending upon on offense with Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White and Damien Harris in the fold, but he’s given the unit a boost when they’ve needed it this season.