Patriots rock solid defense may start trending in wrong direction

Aqib Talib Patriots
The status of cornerback Aqib Talib remains up in the air. Credit: Getty Images

The Patriots went into the 2013-14 NFL season with what was anticipated to be an above-average NFL defense.

That was on display for the first few weeks of the season, as New England won its games in low-scoring, grind-it-out ways – completely against the grain of years past. That trend could go in a different direction going forward.

First, Vince Wilfork was placed on IR, ending his season, after tearing his Achilles tendon in Week 4. Then, fellow D-lineman Tommy Kelly left the game in Week 5 with a knee injury, and didn’t play in Week 6 against the Saints. Then came two more key injuries on the defensive side against the Saints: cornerback Aqib Talib and linebacker Jerod Mayo.

Talib, who is dealing with a left hip injury, didn’t practice on Wednesday. The Mayo news, meanwhile, is as bad as it gets. The Pats defensive captain was put on IR on Wednesday after having surgery for a torn pectoral muscle. His season is over too.

You can’t simply replace guys like Wilfork, Mayo, and especially Talib this season, but Bill Belichick has no choice but to move on with the healthy players he has.

That means linebackers like Jamie Collins and Dane Fletcher can expect bigger roles the rest of the season. Collins, the team’s first pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, is most likely the leading candidate. Fletcher is coming off a torn ACL that kept him out entirely last season, but has done well on special teams and in limited linebacker duties.

The message is clear though: next man up.

“When you lose someone like we did with Vince [Wilfork] or Jerod [Mayo], it’s tough,” said Tom Brady. “But I’d say a lot of teams deal with it too. You don’t want to feel sorry for yourself. What you realize is somebody has to fill in and do the job. As much as you hate to lose guys, there’s nothing you can do about it and the season doesn’t end.”


But Mayo was more than the team’s best tackler. He was the one wearing the communication device in his helmet, relaying messages from the sidelines to his teammates. Now, that job will fall on somebody else.

Could it be safety Devin McCourty, who has plenty of experience on the Pats D? Or perhaps Dont’a Hightower, who has really stepped up in his second season, and wore the device during the preseason? Belichick wasn’t ready to name the next in line to wear it.

“One guy has to get it to the other 10, however you slice it up,” Belichick said. “Whatever you feel is the most efficient way to do that for your defensive system and the players that are involved then you pick out your best option.”


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

International

Jews in eastern Ukraine ordered to register, Kerry…

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned reports that Jews in eastern Ukraine had been ordered to register with the authorities "or suffer the consequences."

National

Chelsea Clinton pregnant with first child

Chelsea Clinton is pregnant with her first child.

National

Divers struggle in search for South Korean ferry…

By Jungmin Jang and Narae KimMOKPO/JINDO, South Korea (Reuters) - Rescuers struggled with strong waves and murky waters on Thursday as they searched for hundreds…

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

Movies

Review: 'Transcendence' is not stupid but sometimes lacks…

The cyberthriller "Transcendence" explores artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and other ethical quandaries, but has too much ambition, if anything.

NBA

Carmelo Anthony agonizing over Knicks future as season…

There’s still the cloud hanging over the franchise’s head as to the pending free-agent status of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony.

NFL

Jets host players with eye toward NFL Draft

The Jets hosted a number of NFL Draft hopefuls for workouts on Thursday, with an eye toward some under-the-radar players.

NFL

Chris Johnson: I wanted to go to 'a…

Now that Chris Johnson is a Jet, the team has to figure out if one of the most explosive players in the NFL over the last half decade has anything…

NHL

Rangers' speed versus Flyers' size makes interesting playoff…

Among the myriad aspects that will make this Metropolitan Division semifinal series fascinating will be the battle between the Rangers' speed and the Flyers' size,…

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.

Travel

Earth Day travel in the Florida Keys

See why this eco-friendly destination deserves your attention.

Tech

Sorry, Facebook — FarmVille goes mobile with 'Country…

Zynga has released a version of the hit "FarmVille" tailored for smartphones and tablets in the hope of reaping a bumper crop of players.