EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Four days after carrying the ball a career-high 11 times, New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen made the biggest the play of his young career in Thursday night's lopsided win over the New York Jets.
With the Patriots backed up in their own territory after recovering a Jets fumble at their 17-yard line, Vereen found more daylight than he was likely expecting on a routine short-yardage pass pattern.
"He had a wheel route, and (the Jets) carried (receivers) Wes (Welker) and Brandon (Lloyd) on the outside," quarterback Tom Brady said. "They just carried them up the field and there was a lot of space."
That space allowed the speedy Vereen to catch Brady's pass and go off to the races, sprinting 83 yards down the sideline to start off a string of three Patriots touchdowns in 52 seconds of game time.
"I was a little surprised," Vereen said. "I thought the cornerback was on me, but the receivers ran (the coverage) off and I was able to finish the play. As soon as I turned, the ball was on me."
Drafted in the second round in 2011, Vereen's NFL career got off to a slow start, but he has worked himself more into the offense in recent weeks. In Week 7, also against the Jets, Vereen gained 49 yards on eight carries, while he has taken a combined 21 carries over the past two games.
Known more as an elusive, pass-catching running back than teammate Stevan Ridley, the 23-year old Vereen put his speed on display for a national audience on the 83-yard catch-and-run.
"Once I threw it to him, he's so fast, he can outrun those guys," Brady said. "He caught it up the sideline and it was nice seeing the back of his jersey running down the field. He opened up everything."