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Breaking down Kendrick Bourne's emergence for Pats offense

The free agent addition is continuing to stack success every week as he's carved out an important role in the Patriots offense.

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With two touchdowns in a big win against the Titans, Kendrick Bourne continued his recent hot streak, as the free-agent addition has emerged as a versatile weapon in the Patriots offense. Bourne has shined in different ways, whether it's winning contested catches, producing explosive plays with the ball in his hands or even throwing a touchdown, he's provided a new dynamic and valuable depth for New England's attack.

There has been no shortage of highlight plays by Bourne this season, as he got his first touchdown of the season on a tough contested catch against the Saints that showed his potential as part of a breakout six-catch, 96-yard receiving performance. He'd strike again vs. the Cowboys, with a thrilling 75-yard catch-and-run that helped send the game to overtime. In his next game against the Jets, he'd throw the first touchdown of his career, finding Nelson Agholor for six.

His third receiving touchdown of the year came against the Browns, as Bourne jumped between two defenders for another contested touchdown catch. It remains one of the highlight plays of the season. During the six-game win streak, Bourne has had four or more catches in all but one of the victories.

Aside from his touchdown pass, Bourne also has six carries for 78 yards, while staying fairly balanced between lining up out wide (234 snaps) and in the slot (161 snaps).

Against the Titans, Bourne once again displayed the talents that have helped him post 42 catches for 623 yards and five touchdowns, which puts him on pace to set career highs across the board. His first touchdown of the game helped the Patriots get off to a great start and it was another catch made with a defender draped all over him.

"It was really just a good concentration play," said Bill Belichick of the touchdown reception that made it 7-0 Patriots. "They blitzed us. Mac [Jones] did a good job of getting the ball out. There was a free rusher off the edge. They brought six. We only have five blockers in there. We had to get out. He did a good job, made a tight throw, and KB went up. It was good coverage, but he was able to stay with the ball. Good concentration and came down with it."

"Just a great play call by Josh [McDaniels]," said Bourne following the win. "Mac [Jones], he has the decision to go either side, we got the look we wanted, and just kind of ran a good route. He threw a good ball. I always say it was a really good ball. It's just a good play by me. Getting my feet down was the biggest thing. I don't know how I did it, but shoutout to the team for making it happen."

Bourne's second touchdown was even more important. With the Patriots clinging to a six-point lead late in the third quarter, Jones found Bourne underneath on a critical third-and-6 and the receiver did the rest, taking the ball up the sideline, getting a great block from Jakobi Meyers and tiptoeing into the end zone for a score that essentially put the game away.

"It was a good run-after-catch," said Belichick. "He made a nice play avoiding the first tackler, then Jakobi [Meyers] screened off the second tackler, and then he stiff-armed [Jayon] Brown going into the endzone, so it was a good finish on the play.

"You know, those explosive plays are just such game-changers, and obviously today we didn't do a great job in the red area. We left a lot of points on the field, but when you get a play like that where you can run it in the last 40 yards and not have to run another dozen plays down there in the red area makes it a lot easier."

"I definitely thought I was going to get hit," said Bourne of the big play. "Shoutout to Jakobi [Meyers] with the great block. That was what made the whole play. He's been doing that his whole career, blocking really well, and he caught a really good block right there. Giving that extra effort he gave really spurred me, so shoutout to him, but just a good play overall by the whole group."

Meyers has continued to be a go-to receiver, while Hunter Henry's red-zone chemistry with Mac Jones has helped provide the offense with some needed finish, but Bourne's ascension has provided another layer as he's become an offensive x-factor. Bourne's also been extremely effective on third downs, catching 10-of-13 third-down targets with seven first downs and two touchdowns.

There's no question of Bourne's increasing importance to the offense and he credited the coaches for pushing him to improve in critical areas like ball security.

"When I first came in, I was swinging the ball everywhere, kind of playing my style of play, and he [Bill Belichick] corrected it fast," said Bourne. "He taught me to keep the ball high and tight at all times and eventually my body just started adjusting to keeping the ball right here. It's just about securing the ball, having ball security. We emphasize no turnovers, so it's just a blessing that I can improve in different ways and be versatile for this team. It's just dope how they're developing me."

"KB's just got to keep working," said Belichick. "He's improved in a lot of areas. There are still things, whether it's our system or from a technical standpoint, but like all receivers, there's always the need to work on timing and execution with the quarterback and other receivers in the route pattern, so on and so forth. We'll just keep doing that."

With just five games left and the team's fate very much in their own hands, Bourne figures to play a key role down the stretch, but even after a stellar two-touchdown outing, he was maintaining a one-week-at-a-time focus.

"I don't think there is a ceiling at all," said Bourne following the game when asked how good this Patriots team can be. "We try to emphasize that. [Matthew] Slater just talked to us after about not getting overzealous about ourselves. Nothing like that. Just being in the moment and playing each game, each week, and thinking about that game. We're onto Buffalo now and that's the focus. That'll be good for us to just certify ourselves."

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