Shane Vereen went from anonymous backup to the spotlight for the New England Patriots on Sunday.
A third-string running back, Vereen became essential in New England's offense after Danny Woodhead was injured on the Patriots' first play from scrimmage. While Stevan Ridley, a 1,000-yard rusher, maintained the lead role, Vereen was the guy getting into the end zone.
Three times, in fact.
''Shane had a great game, just a huge growing-up moment for him, very special,'' Tom Brady said after Vereen gained 124 total yards in a 41-28 divisional-round win over Houston.
Vereen gained 400 yards during the season, including 251 on the ground and 149 in the air. His workload was limited and to expect the second-year back from California to have a big impact in the playoffs was foolhardy.
Yet there he was, catching TD passes of 8 and 33 yards from Brady and running in for a 1-yard score. The 33-yarder featured a difficult over-the-shoulder grab along the left sideline....