In stepped Vereen, the most unlikely of stars, with the best performance by a player wearing No. 34 in Boston sports since either Paul Pierce in the 2008 NBA Finals or David Ortiz in the 2004 World Series. (That may be a bit of an overstatement, but maybe not).
“We hate to lose Woody and of course Rob,” said Vereen. “You could be nervous, but you can’t think about that going into the game. Everyone is counting on you, and that’s what the game is about. When my number was called I had to perform.”
What Vereen delivered was the best day of his NFL career, with five catches for 83 yards and two touchdowns and seven carries for 41 yards and a third score.
He wasted no time making his name heard, scoring the Pats’ first touchdown on a 1-yard plunge, a score he set up with a 25-yard run. He then struck again with New England’s second touchdown, snagging an 8-yard pass for a score to give his team a 17-3 lead.
But he saved his best for last. Lined up as a receiver to the left, Vereen sprinted down field and made a beautiful over-the-shoulder catch for a 33-yard touchdown.
“That was one awesome catch by Shane,” said All-Pro guard Logan Mankins. “A really great catch. He also had some nice runs. We have a lot of faith in him and (fellow back Stevan) Ridley.”
Texans coach Gary Kubiak was also wowed by the catch, in which Vereen toasted a linebacker who was mismatched in coverage.
“The catch that kid made on the deep ball, WOW,” said Kubiak. “What a play. I’ve been doing this a long time and that was tremendous.”
Vereen’s numbers are especially impressive since the halfback he had just four touchdowns on the season, and five for his NFL career.