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
National

Thousands protest in New York over Eric Garner…

The Reverend Al Sharpton led thousands of chanting but peaceful activists in a march across Staten Island on Saturday to protest the death of Eric Garner.

International

Egypt calls for Gaza ceasefire as fighting rages

Egypt called on Israel and the Palestinians on Saturday to halt fire and resume peace talks, but violence continued unabated.

National

SpaceX rocket terminated in Texas test flight

A Space Exploration Technologies’ Falcon 9 rocket suffered an anomaly shortly after launch on a test flight, triggering its automatic termination system.

Local

MAP: New York City Street Closures August 22,…

The Percy Sutton Harlem 5K and NYC Family Health Walk-a-thon and Pakistan Day Parade and Fair will cause traffic delays and street closures in New York City this weekend. Plan…

Music

Arcade Fire concert review, Massachusetts, Aug. 19

Arcade Fire take the opposite approach of "Shut up and play the hits," and it works in their favor on the "Reflektor" tour.

Television

Recap: 'The Knick,' Season 1, Episode 3, 'The…

The third episode of Steven Soderbergh's "The Knick" finds Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen) meeting an old flame and other characters embracing self-destruction.

Music

Webcast: Watch Polyphonic Spree live on Sunday Aug.…

Polyphonic Spree singer Tim DeLaughter sits with Metro Music Editor Pat Healy for a chat and then the big band performs live. It begins on Sunday at 9:30 pm

Movies

Matthew Weiner on directing 'Are You Here' and…

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner discusses his movie "Are You Here," his history writing comedy and the tiny movie he directed in 1996 you can't see.

NFL

3 things we learned about the Giants in…

The Giants claimed the Snoopy trophy in a battle of MetLife Stadium tenants Friday night. But more importantly, the offense finally showed some life in…

NFL

3 things we learned about the Jets in…

The Jets lost the Snoopy Bowl, 35-24, to the Giants, losing the trophy and local bragging rights.

NFL

Fantasy football draft guide: How to draft your…

Many are wondering if we’re entering a new age in fantasy football drafting — one where running backs take a backseat.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Giants storylines to watch

The Giants have plenty to work on as they reach the dress rehearsal preseason game Friday night against the rival Jets.

Wellbeing

Asics is giving away free gear around NYC…

Asics wants to see you on the court - and in the stands for the U.S. Open, which begins Monday - by giving away free…

Sex

Big weddings may lead to long-term happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. l A…

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…