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Vereen's 33 yard touchdown catch vs. the Texans
When we look back at New England's 41-28 win over Houston last Sunday, it will probably become known as "The Shane Vereen Game."  Nobody could have predicted the 3rd string running back with just 5 career touchdowns would become the first NFL player in 19 years to record 2 receiving TD's and a rushing TD in a single playoff game (and just the 3rd ever; Roger Craig in 1984 and Ricky Watters in 1994).  But based on the Patriots playoff history in the Belichick/Brady era, it's really not all that surprising.  New England has had a knack for busting out unusual new offensive weapons in their opening round playoff games over the years.

In last season's 45-10 divisional round victory over Denver, Rob Gronkowksi's 10 catches for 145 yards and 3 TD's predictably led the way.  But the team's leading rusher was the other tight end; Aaron  Hernandez had 61 yards on 5 carries.

Three years ago the Patriots lost at home to Baltimore in their first playoff game, 33-14.  With Wes Welker out after having just torn his ACL, Julian Edelman emerged as the unexpected star.  Edelman had 6 catches for 44 yards, and scored both New England touchdowns.

In the 2003-04 season that ended with a Super Bowl win over Carolina, the Pats began the playoff against league CO-MVP Steve McNair (along with Peyton Manning) and the Tennessee Titans.  One of the MVP's of that game was a relatively unknown guy by the name of Bethel Johnson, who led New England with 55 receiving yards and a TD.

And in the Patriots first magical Super Bowl run in 2001, we will always remember their opening round victory in the snow over the Raiders.  Something that is often forgotten from "The Tuck Rule Game" is the fact that the Pats top receiving target was seldom used veteran tight end Jermaine Wiggins, who had 68 yards on 10 catches.

Follow Mark on twitter @LucidSportsFan

Mark Vandeusen 1/17/2013 01:55:00 PM Edit
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