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Shane Vareen: Third-string New England Patriot emerges as playoffs star

Shane Vareen, a New England running back, scored three times in the Patriots 41-28 win over the Houston Texans Sunday. Shane Vareen gained 124 total yards in an impressive range of plays.

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New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen, left, is congratulated by quarterback Tom Brady after Vareen's eight-yard touchdown pass reception from Brady during the first half of an AFC divisional playoff NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013. The Patriots beat the Houston Texans 41-28.

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

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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.

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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.

"I don't come into the game knowing how much anyone is going to play," Vereen said. "I come into the game ready to go, and if my number is called, I do my best for the team."

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