After a slow start with just three catches for 27 yards through the first two games of the season, Kendrick Bourne has been coming on in recent weeks, grabbing 14 catches for 180 yards and a touchdown in the last three contests. Since arriving on a three-year pact from San Francisco, Bourne's wide smile and positive energy have been a welcome addition and now that he's putting it all together on the field, his impact is becoming even more complete.
"KB's got some good energy, he brings that at the practice field every day," said head coach Bill Belichick on Friday. "It's fun to have that type of personality and energy interjected into the team. He works hard. Some of the things we've asked him to do I feel like he's really improved with. He's got some good skills, good quickness, he's got length, good target, catches the ball well, is quick. Good skillset and a guy who just continues to work hard and get better every single day. I have a lot of respect for the way he approaches the game and his work ethic on the practice field."
Bourne missed just one game in his last three seasons with the 49ers and is carrying over that consistency with the Patriots, as he leads all receivers and tight ends with a 77.3 percent catch rate.
"Honestly, I would just say I'm enjoying where I'm at in life, I'm enjoying the moment, everything that I've been through in life and just taking it day by day, really enjoying the days," said Bourne when asked about his upbeat attitude. "Things don't get easier if I'm putting pouting around or coming out here with a bad attitude, it doesn't help anything. I've just been like this all my life."
This weekend, Bourne will face a dangerous Dallas defense that is leading the league with 10 interceptions, led by Trevon Diggs who has six of them. Bourne knows he and Mac Jones will have to be on the same page to avoid letting the Cowboys' playmakers in the secondary impact the game.
"I'm definitely familiar with this team, I've played against them," said Bourne of the Cowboys. "Just ready for the opportunity, they're a good team, solid DB's, they got Trevon, he's leading the league in interceptions.. It's just about us executing and making the plays that we have to make."
Dallas poses a sizable challenge but Bourne and the Patriots remain confident that they can put it all together and pick up their first home win of the season, with the receiver praising his head coach for his thorough preparation that puts the team through all kinds of different situations on the practice field.
"We've had games where we've been close, we just didn't finish," said Bourne. "That's what we need to do, find our complete game. If we can do it at practice every day it should be really easy in the game and Bill does a really good job of making practice hard for us, putting us in a hard situation so we're not shocked when we get to the game. That's what I love about here most, I've learned how to play every situation now because I've been going through every situation in practice with Bill and how he runs it here. I appreciate it because when I get to the game I'm so comfortable.
"We're confident all around because we're doing everything at practice."
Five points of emphasis vs. Cowboys
- Fast Start: Dallas' offense is too stacked and explosive for the Patriots to fall into an early hole, as the Cowboys lead the NFL with six first-quarter touchdowns and the Patriots have scored just one. But it's more than avoiding a deficit, it's about establishing confidence within themselves and sowing doubt for a Cowboys franchise that hasn't beaten New England in 25 years. Whether it's forcing a first-possession punt by Dallas or putting together a first-drive touchdown themselves, the Patriots need to have a positive say in how this game declares itself.
- Goodbye Bad Football: The biggest priority right now is putting an end to the bad football that has seen the Patriots turn the ball over nine times this season, tied for third-worst in the league. The 2021 Pats will never get on track and live up to any potential if they keep beating themselves and there's no more direct way to do that than giving the ball away. An awakening of the defensive ballhawks would also be a nice way to turn things around. They haven't had a meaningful takeaway since Zach Wilson threw them four interceptions in Week 2.
- Red Zone Finish: Dallas has broken 35 points in their last three games, while the Patriots have broken that total just twice in the last 21 games. New England can be more productive than the 19.2 points-per-game they're averaging, but that's a big gap to make up. The quickest way to get closer to scoring 30 would be to finish off their drives with touchdowns as the Pats are the second-worst team in the league in the red zone.
- Depth Charge: The Patriots' makeshift offensive line did an outstanding job last weekend in Houston, and it looks like they'll have some new challenges against Dallas, starting at the tackle position where their depth is being further tested by Justin Herron's injury. But the OL isn't the only spot where they have some injury questions, including running back, cornerback and even kicker. As always, team depth begins to be tested as the season progresses and the Patriots are certainly dealing with it now. They'll need contributions from a few depth players if they're to knock off the Cowboys.
- Win: The stage is set for Sunday afternoon and it's one of the biggest opportunities that the Patriots have had in the last two seasons to get a real statement win. Of course, statements in Week 6 can be overrated, but this is a Patriots team that is 0-3 at home and lacking the kind of signature win that shows they can still compete with the iron of the league. A big win over an excellent team would be truly reinvigorating and get the 2021 season on track.
Justin Herron returned to Friday's practice on the upper fields, however both he and Shaq Mason continue to be limited, putting a more cloudy outlook around how much of the offensive line will be able to go this weekend. One thing seems certain though, expect Yodny Cajuste to be one of the tackles the team must rely on.
Isaiah Wynn (Reserve/COVID-19) and Shaun Wade (concussion) continue to be the only players not spotted for the stretching portion of practice.