With Sony Michel out for a second straight week, and James White sidelined temporarily in the first half, the Patriots found themselves shorthanded at running back. Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson stepped in though, carrying the ball 11 times for 61 yards and a touchdown in the Patriots 31-17 win over the Green Bay Packers. Patterson, who was signed essentially to return kicks and play receiver, has carried the ball in each of the last two weeks.
It was just another example of coach Bill Belichick improvising and using one of his players to fill in at a different position. Here are a few occasions the Patriots did so, sometimes by neccessity, and sometimes for the element of surprise.
■ The Patriots have had a long line of runnings backs who were adept at catching passes out of the backfield in the Belichick-Brady era: Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen, Dion Lewis, and James White, to name a few. But before all of them, there was Kevin Faulk, who amassed 7,308 total yards in his 13-year career — 3,607 rushing and 3,701 receiving — but the versatile running back could also throw too.
In a 2001 game against the Miami Dolphins, the Patriots ran a halfback option, with Faulk rolling to his right, then throwing back to his left side to . . . Brady? Yes, Brady caught the pass, then rumbled 23 yards for a first down.
■ Dan Klecko was an undersized defensive lineman who spent three seasons with the Patriots from 2003-05, earning a pair of rings for Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX. He played on special teams, and on a few occasions, played fullback in short yardage situations. But he didn’t just serve as a lead blocker. He could also catch passes out of the backfield, to the tune of three receptions for 18 yards while with the Patriots.
■ Richard Seymour is remembered for being an All-Pro defensive lineman for the Patriots from 2001-08, winning three Super Bowls with the team. But early in his career, he also was used as a fullback in short-yardage situations.
■ Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau was in the twilight of his career when he joined the Patriots, having come out of retirement to join the team in 2006, but he too would double as a fullback in his limited time with the club.
■ Like Seymour, Mike Vrabel was one of the defensive anchors of the Patriots’ first three Super Bowl teams. But the linebacker was a threat on offense in the red zone, lining up in short-yardage situations and hauling in eight passes, all for touchdowns, for a total of 11 yards. He also had two touchdown receptions in the postseason, including one in Super Bowl XXXVIII.
The team has had their fair share of versatile wide receivers as well.
■ Troy Brown spent 15 seasons with the Patriots, retiring after the 2007 season as the franchise’s all-time leading receiver with 557 catches. But he also served as a defensive back when the Patriots were shorthanded throughout his career. Brown would prove to be more than just a spare part, collecting three interceptions and registering 25 tackles.
■ Julian Edelman has 456 receptions with the Patriots, but in 2011 he filled in on defense and recorded a nice open-field tackle against Phildalphia Eagles’ quarterback Vince Young. He has 22 tackles in his career.
Edelman, who played quarterback in college at Kent State, has aired it out on occasion for the Patriots too, including Sunday night’s pass to James White. He also connected with Danny Amendola for a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens in the playoffs in the 2014 season.
■ Amendola has also taken his shot at slinging the football around, connecting with Brady for a big play against the Philadelphia Eaglies in 2015.
Sadly, they could not re-enact that feat in Super Bowl LII.
■ Brady has done more than just moonlight as a receiver. In a playoff game against the Denver Broncos, Brady punted on third down late in the fourth quarter of a 45-10 win. The ball rolled inside the Denver 10, good for a 48-yard punt. Brady also had a punt against the Miami Dolphins in 2003 that was downed at the 1.
■ In that same game, the Patriots lined up tight end Aaron Hernandez in the backfield, who responded with five carries for 61 yards, including a long of 43 yards.