Former New England Patriots running back James White decided to hang up the cleats on Thursday after an eight-year NFL career, during which he was arguably quarterback Tom Brady’s go-to guy and made clutch plays look almost routine.
While New England likely would have loved to have White on the team this season given their training camp offensive struggles, the passing back known as “Sweet Feet” decided that he wouldn’t be a part of it and is moving on to a post-football life.
While it hurts to see a player many consider to be one of the faces of the 2010’s Patriots walk away from the game, let’s take this moment to remember the good times he provided along the way. Here are the best five plays of James White’s great Patriots career:
5. Touchdown in the 2017 Divisional Round vs Houston
While this may seem like a random touchdown catch on paper, this play was actually incredibly important both for White and for the Patriots.
For White, it marked his first ever postseason touchdown and gave birth to his ability to perform in clutch playoff moments. The season before, New England had traveled out to the Rocky Mountains to play the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship game. The Patriots’ offense as a whole struggled that day against a strong Denver defense, but arguably no one struggled more than White. The running back caught only five of his 16 passing targets and rushed for only 11 yards on five carries in New England’s 20-18 loss.
This play marked a return from that ghastly game and jump-started his ability to perform in the clutch.
For the Patriots, they were only leading by four points against a strong Houston Texans team in the third quarter. A touchdown here to put them ahead would give them some breathing room, and, hopefully, bring down Houston’s spirits a little bit.
4. 68-yard catch and run at Miami
Throughout his career, White was not only known for his pass-catching repertoire with Brady but also for his speed and elusiveness after he caught the ball. While most of White’s catches were for short gains and first downs, he had the ability to break loose and run wild if the opportunity presented itself.
Although this Week 17 matchup in Miami against the Dolphins ended in a 20-10 loss, this play showcases White’s ability to put defenders on skates in open space and burst through what seem to be only small openings if he had the chance to.
3. Late touchdown in Super Bowl LI
While White is remembered much better for a different touchdown he scored in Super Bowl LI against the Atlanta Falcons, this one is also worth featuring. White went absolutely crazy in this game, racking up a whopping 110 receiving yards on 14 receptions in addition to 29 rushing yards and three total touchdowns.
At this point in the game, the Patriots were still down eight points with less than a minute remaining in regulation. Although it was only a one-yard score, this touchdown was the last one scored in New England’s legendary comeback, starting from being down 28-3 and ending in this score that, along with a 2-point conversion scored by wide receiver Danny Amendola, sent the game into overtime tied at 28.
2. Sideline catch against the Ravens
Even though this catch took place in a largely uneventful Week 9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, it shows White’s immense versatility as a playmaker.
What made White so special throughout his career is that he could run the ball with the strength and agility of a running back and also run routes with the precision and touch of a wide receiver. This ability made him so hard to defend from a defensive standpoint, as a linebacker was usually too slow to cover him. This led to him occasionally drawing coverage from a corner or safety, which would open up the field for a different Patriots receiver to make a play.
On this play in particular, White shows off that versatility in his ability to catch the ball. This sort of sideline grab can be hard for even experienced receivers to come down with, not to mention that White is also smothered in coverage by Ravens defender Earl Thomas. However, White makes this circus catch look almost routine for him.
1. Touchdown to win Super Bowl LI
I think any Patriots fan reading this list knew that this play would be at or near the top. While, as I mentioned above, White had an overall outstanding game against the Falcons in Super Bowl LI, this touchdown to win the game in overtime is the most important and (arguably) most awesome touchdown he scored in that game.
This score not only capped New England’s improbable comeback victory from being down 28-3 at the end of the third quarter, it also showcased all of White’s outstanding and versatile abilities in one play.
While the play itself is technically a run, the pitch does get fumbled a fair bit by running backs who take their eyes off the ball too early. White watches the ball into his hands and then looks at the defense in front of him, noticing that, if he gets the defenders moving to the right, he may be able to cut in left and dive two yards for a score.
White does exactly that, using his agility to get just a sliver of open space between the line of scrimmage and the goal line. However, he gets hit by a Falcons defender right at the line, and it seems like it is pretty likely that he’s about to get stuffed for no gain. White uses his strength to fight through that tackle as well as those of two other Falcons who try and stop him from getting across the goal line, and in the end, just barely gets the ball across before his knee touches the ground.
This play capped a crazy game for the Patriots, as well as a crazy game for White. It is likely the go-to game performance that many New England fans will think of when they think of White’s career accomplishments, and so it is fitting that on the day of White’s retirement from professional football we end with this clip:
This content was originally published here.