When smoke clears, Woodhead's game will be appreciated

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When smoke clears, Woodhead's game will be appreciated

INDIANAPOLIS -- Among the wreckage of New England's 21-17 Super Bowl XLVI loss, there's at least one piece that should be salvaged and savored.

Danny Woodhead played one of his best NFL games this season.

The undersized running back caught four passes for 42 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed seven times for another 18 yards.

Big-game pressure doesn't get any more oppressive than on Super Sunday. Woodhead embraced it. The touchdown -- New England's first of the game -- was just his second of 2011, his first since Week 15's score in Denver. The receiving yardage was the most he's managed this year; his 19-yard run was the longest he's ripped off.

Unfortunately, the numbers are no consolation to the man.

"I try, no matter the game, to be prepared, to go out there and play a good game," he reflected. "But we ended up losing so it's tough. It's really tough."

"The individual statistical touchdown isn't going to make me that happy'; it's about the score at the end of the game. This is a team game, it's not an individual game. I really haven't thought about it."

Perspective will have to come later. When interviewed, Woodhead was still too close to the loss to glean anything but pain.

"It's the last game of the year, it's the chance to play be world champions. So it's a great experience and it will last forever. Right now, it's tough to look at that. It was a tough game."
Woodhead should find some solace when he's finally able to zoom out.

Once the pride of North Platte High School, he's now a darling of the New England Patriots' rabid fan base. And he's easily the best thing out of Nebraska's Chadron State since Buffalo's Don Beebe (two career Super Bowl touchdowns during the team's three-year span of Big Show heartbreak).

Not bad for an undrafted free agent the Jets couldn't do anything with.

"I approach every week the same," Woodhead said in Monday's first hour. "And that is to be ready for whatever can be thrown at me. No matter how many carries or receptions I may get, I just feel like I need to stay ready all thetime."

It's true this season's totals -- 351 yards rushing, 157 yards receiving -- don't match those of 2010 (547 and 379, respectively). But the drop-off might have more to do with the October ankle injury he suffered in Oakland than a loss in standing with the Patriots.

Woodhead missed New England's game against the Jets; when he returned one week later, he didn't appear the same. Gone was the explosive ability to weave through the narrowest of gaps. The bravado he once flexed when pin-balling off larger defenders was replaced by reticence.

But Woodhead progressed each week. By the time Super Bowl XLVI rolled around, the Patriots asked a lot and he gave everything.

Quarterback Tom Brady went to Woodhead six times -- four consecutive -- on New England's first touchdown drive.

"It's as tough of a loss as I think I've ever had," Woodhead said after the game. "You get so close, and it doesn't end up the way you'd like it. It's a tough pill toswallow."

His signing by the Patriots has been a win and he reinforced his presence Sunday night.

Something to remember once the smoke clears.

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