Jamie Collins got the New England Patriots on the board first Sunday. He just didn’t score the points.
The second-year linebacker initial mark was left at the 12:47 mark in the opening quarter, as the Miami Dolphins shipped out kicker Caleb Sturgis and the field-goal unit to attempt a 41-yarder following a four-play, 57-yard drive.
The snap was delivered, the hold was placed, and the kicker grazed his right foot underneath the football. But Collins did more than graze it when he crashed down from the right wing of Miami’s line. He rejected it. And cornerback Kyle Arrington scooped it up on the rebound, returning it 62 yards for a touchdown as the Patriots took a 7-0 lead at Gillette Stadium.
“Jamie continues to make big plays for us on the defensive side of the ball and in the kicking game,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said in his press conference afterwards. “He’s got real good length for a linebacker: tall with long arms, great jumping ability. His ability to knock down passes and reach into passing lanes, or block a kick in this case – very obviously athletic, we all know that.”
Collins’ traits continued to be known on the defensive side of the ball in Week 15. The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Southern Mississippi product proceeded to stop Dolphins wideout Mike Wallace for no gain on a handoff. Then he stopped halfback Lamar Miller for a four-yard loss, and later quarterback Ryan Tannehill for a two-yard loss with defensive tackle Sealver Siliga.
The 25-year-old finished with four tackles in New England’s division-clinching 41-13 win. And while wasn’t credited for a sack for the first time in three weeks, his blitzes through the A-gaps had a hand in generating ones for his teammates.
“He just keeps playing faster and faster each week it seems like,” Belichick added. “He gets a key and he’s able to make plays, whether it be in the kicking game or running through, making tackles for loss in the running game or tackles in the open field on receivers and backs.”
The 2013 second-round draft pick lined up at safety, linebacker and defensive end during his collegiate tenure in Hattiesburg, Miss., and that experience at all levels of the field has translated in Foxborough.
Collins now has 100 tackles, three sacks, three forced fumbles, an interception and a blocked kick to show for it this season.
“He’s playing well and he’s strung together quite a few weeks of good football for us,” Belichick said.