The New England Patriots entered Sunday's game with one specific goal – getting Antonio Brown the ball. According to NFL insider Ian Rapoport, the belief was that the Patriots would feed the newly-acquired receiver after an impressive first week of practice. This report was met by some skepticism due to many teams saying that whenever they land a new player, but the Patriots were not messing around.
During the first half of Sunday's game, Tom Brady targeted Brown five times on passing plays and used him as a running back once. The former Steelers star caught four of these passes for 56 yards, including a touchdown. The man who led the league with 15 touchdowns in 2018 registered his first as a member of the Patriots.
On the play in question, Brown lined up in the slot as an inside receiver, showing the Patriots plan to utilize his skills all over the field. He faced off with cornerback Jomal Wiltz, a youngster from Iowa, and quickly beat him off the line on the route toward the end zone. Wiltz was able to keep decent coverage on the play, but Brady threw a back-shoulder pass toward Brown that would either be incomplete or a touchdown. The ball placement made it impossible for Wiltz to make a play.
So far, the relationship between the Patriots and Brown is proceeding as many expected. He is on his best behavior and is proving to be just as effective of a weapon on the field. This is the best-case scenario for the team and their fans, but it serves as a head-scratching sequence of events for the Raiders and the Steelers. These are two teams that watched Brown cause issues in the locker room and off the field on a regular basis, and the receiver's tenure with Oakland ended before he even suited up for a game.
At this point, it's unlikely that Brown will lead the league in touchdowns once again, but the Patriots expect him to be heavily involved for as long as he is on the field. A decision by Commissioner Roger Goodell about the allegations of sexual assault against the receiver could ultimately sideline Brown for an undetermined amount of time. For now, however, he will continue to produce for the Patriots offense.