Patriots receiver Kendrick Bourne had a Sunday remember. There’s a good chance that at least a little bit of his Monday will be something to forget.
Bourne had two touchdown catches in the 36-13 win over the Titans. One, in the corner of the end zone, happened when Bourne somehow planted his second foot while being forced out of bounds by Titans safety Kevin Byard. Then, Bourne took an underneath crossing route 41 yards to the end zone, an outcome that the NFL’s @NextGenStats account calculated at 0.3 percent.
A couple of jukes allowed Bourne to get to the sideline and then a block from Jakobi Myers helped spring Bourne, who threw a stiff arm at linebacker Jayon Brown as Bourne somehow managed to remain in bounds on his way to pay dirt.
The most fascinating moment, given the league’s current obsession with its renewed emphasis on the taunting rule, came when Bourne gave in to the temptation to quickly flash a peace sign at cornerback Buster Skrine as he tried in vain to keep Bourne from scoring.
The officials didn’t see it. The cameras did. Coach Bill Belichick surely did. And Belichick undoubtedly will let Bourne hear about it.
Although fans and media have become exasperated with the taunting focus, everyone knows the rules at this point. And everyone knows that any gesture toward an opponent potentially crosses the line. Bourne did it too quickly for the officials to see it.
If they had, it would have resulted in a kickoff from the 20 and presumably better field position for the Titans as they embarked on the effort to cut the margin back to six. (Tennessee ultimately got the ball to the two, with an interception happening on fourth and goal.)
This isn’t a defense of the rule. It’s an acknowledgement of it. And it’s an observation that Belichick undoubtedly has told his players to not do anything that would remotely fall into the category of taunting.
Indeed, receiver Brandin Cooks and tight end Rob Gronkowski “got yelled at” in 2017 for their piggyback-ride celebration, even though a relaxation of the rules that year allowed such gestures. Bourne, despite his two touchdowns, quite possibly will get yelled at by Belichick, as a reminder to all Patriots not to risk giving up 15 yards of field position — especially as the stakes of an unexpectedly special season get higher and higher.