MIAMI - Given the contributions of other, more-famous Patriots, it's easy to overlook a fellow named Willie Andrews.
But it was impossible to overlook him Sunday, after a 77-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that may have broken the resolve of the Miami Dolphins to rally from a 14-0 deficit. The Dolphins didn't - although the best view they got was of Andrews' behind, running toward the end zone.
"All I saw was the end zone," he said of the return with 14:45 left in the second quarter that put the Patriots up 21-7. "It's one of my things not to get caught from the back. I was looking at the big screen I saw Ellis (Hobbs) behind me so I started cruising there."
Hobbs had a 108-yarder for a score earlier this season, and the addition of Andrews' run ended a drought dating back to 1961 for the Patriots. Not since Larry Garron and Ron Burton returned kickoffs for touchdowns in the same season have the Patriots accomplished that feat before this year.
Andrews, a second-year veteran defensive back from Baylor who has actually taken a few snaps at wide receiver, said he read a situation and reacted to it as the Patriots prepared to field the kickoff by Jay Feely after Cleo Lemon's 4-yard touchdown run cut their early lead to 14-7.
"Before we went out there, coach (Bill Belichick) said to us that they had just scored and that was a big play, and he said to be alert for the onside (kick) or the pop kick," Andrews said. "Le Kevin (Smith) is one of our defensive linemen, so I knew if they were going to kick it to anybody, they were going to kick it to him.
"So I went over that way," he said. "I was supposed to run a return the other way, but I was just going to sit back there and wait for the pop kick, and it came. I caught the ball, and we all know they squeeze hard. That's something we saw in practice all week. They all squeezed one way, I picked up a block and all I saw was the end zone."
For Andrews, it was paydirt on only his second attempted return of the season, and his first kickoff return for a score in a very long time.
"I haven't had one," he said. "I had a lot of opportunities in college, but I haven't had one. It was my first kickoff return since high school."
Andrews also helped the cause on special teams by downing a Chris Hanson punt on the Miami 1 with 5:05 left in the first half.
"Every play, that's my job," he said. "I'm a gunner and that's another hard job in this league. I usually am double-teamed, but that play they didn't double-team me and they tried to rush us. I got a good release and a great bounce, and I was able to down it."
But the big memory of the game will be his kickoff return, and he had a good vantage point from which to enjoy it - running to an end zone above which stands a giant high-definition video scoreboard.
He admitted to admiring the view - but not enough to distract him from completing the return untouched. The results of that would have been unthinkable, he said.
"Everybody would have said something to me," he said. "I wouldn't have been able to live with it I probably would have to get traded or something if somebody had caught me from the back."