Lloyd Returns To Form For Patriots

Smile for the camera: Brandon Lloyd's great hands and acrobatic moves have the Patriots feeling all right following injuries to two other wide receivers.

Smile for the camera: Brandon Lloyd’s great hands and acrobatic moves have the Patriots feeling all right following injuries to two other wide receivers.

When Julian Edelman went down with a broken foot following the Patriots‘ 23-16 win over the Dolphins¬†two weeks ago, it looked like difficult times may lie ahead for the NFL’s No. 1 offense. We all knew someone would step up in his absence, however. It seemed like the likely candidate to do that would be Wes Welker with perhaps some help from newcomer Donte’ Stallworth.

Well, Stallworth only had one catch, which was for a 63-yard touchdown, but he sprained his ankle on the play and did not return. Likewise, Welker had just three catches (tying his season low) for 52 yards.

Luckily for them, the Patriots are blessed to have a former NFL receiving leader in Brandon Lloyd. Overshadowed by Welker and the one-two tight end punch for much of the year, Lloyd hadn’t quite lived up to the expectations he had coming into the 2012 season.

In 12 games before the Monday night blowout, he had caught 50 passes for 561 yards and just three touchdowns. Compared with his great 2010 season, he is only 10 behind his total for receptions, but far from his league-leading 1,448 receiving yards. In fact, Lloyd seemed to have become an afterthought for Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense.

He averaged 18.8 yards per catch in 2010. This year , he is averaging just 11.4 yards per catch.

Lloyd’s targets were even taking a significant hit as Brady was not waiting around for him to get open downfield, but instead dumping it off to the second or third option for the short gain. In the first seven games of the season, Lloyd was target 63 times, including three games of 12 or more targets.

Since the, however, he has been targeted just 32 times with nine of those being on Monday night. In the two previous games before playing Houston, Lloyd was targeted just six times total and caught four balls for 36 yards.

Lloyd is a professional though and one who is out to prove that his 77-catch season of two years ago was not a fluke.

Things began heading in the right direction Monday as Lloyd racked up seven catches for 89 yards and a touchdown to lead the Pats in receiving yards. His seven catches were his highest total since Week 3 when he caught 9 balls for 108 yards in the loss to Baltimore. He also recovered a Danny Woodhead fumble in the endzone Monday for his second multi-TD performance of the year.

Maybe Lloyd just needed some motivation or the challenge that is going up against the stingy Houston defense. Whatever the case may be, he stepped up and came through when his team needed him to.

He’s here to help this team win and his role has certainly gotten a whole lot bigger with Edelman not in there. The motivation will be there tomorrow too as Lloyd is going up against the same 49ers team that drafted him 10 years ago and their top-ranked defense.

I wouldn’t be shocked if Lloyd lights them up for 12 catches, 150 yards and two touchdowns. Okay, I’d be a little shocked, but with Edelman and Stallworth now done for the year, Lloyd figures to see a lot more targets in the final three games.

Prediction for Sunday: eight catches, 95 yards and a touchdown.



Follow me on Twitter @RealAndyLarmand.

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