There was no LeGarrette Blount in the backfield, no Julian Edelman out wide, no Dan Connolly on the line, and no Kyle Arrington in the secondary to face the New York Jets. The New England Patriots had to look elsewhere to replace the production of those four key contributors in Sunday’s 17-16 win at MetLife Stadium.
Here are some quick-hits as to how the depth fared.
Gray, Bolden, Vereen Share Backfield: While the 6-foot, 250-pound Blount stayed back with a shoulder injury, Jonas Gray and Brandon Bolden stepped on the field as New England’s two power backs. Gray logged 17 snaps and was the starter, while Bolden logged eight snaps against New York’s strong run defense, according to Pro Football Focus. Shane Vereen was the one who led the group with 42 snaps, however, as the three looked to put a nine-yard first half behind them. As they did so, Gray finished with six carries for five yards and the go-ahead touchdown, and Bolden finished off the game with a 17-yard first down on the way to five total carries and 32 yards. And in between them, Vereen signified a change to “12” personnel as he finished with one catch for 12 yards and six carries for 38 yards.
Amendola, Tyms Featured at Wideout: Edelman stayed in New England due to a concussion and thigh injury as the Patriots traveled to East Rutherford. His absence left the team with three pure wide receivers, but it also left the door open for Danny Amendola. New England turned to the Texas Tech product for 45 offensive snaps on Sunday, marking his third-highest total on the season after playing no more than 18 over the team’s previous four games. The No. 3 wideout proceeded to lead the team with eight receptions for 63 yards, despite having having just 15 recpetions for 113 yards on the year heading into the game. Behind Amendola and Brandon LaFell, New England’s offense also featured “X” wideout Brian Tyms for 14 snaps and specialist Matthew Slater for three snaps as the deep back during the final kneel-downs.
Kline, Fleming Step Inside the Line: Connolly made the trip to face the Jets, but the starting left guard found himself among the seven inactives 90 minutes before kickoff. In turn, the Patriots assembled with 2013 undrafted rookie Josh Kline as the starter in his place. Kline finished having played 28 of the offense’s 65 snaps, while fourth-rookie tackle Cameron Fleming stepped in for 41 total snaps. But collectively, New England’s line conceded four sacks in the first half versus New York, and multiple tackle-eligible combinations were used to find an offensive rhythm. One of those combinations sent left tackle Nate Solder to tight end while reserve Marcus Cannon subbed in on the blindside.
Ryan Covers the Nickel Secondary: After leaving Week 15 against the Miami Dolphins with a hamstring injury, the Patriots opted to leave Arrington at home in Foxborough. In his place stood 2013 third-round pick Logan Ryan, who tallied 33 snaps versus the Jets and predominantly versus slot receiver Jeremy Kerley. Kerley hauled in three passes for 54 yards through New England’s secondary, and Ryan was responsible for two of them. And by the time it was over, the Patriots delved only three deep into the cornerback position. Undrafted rookie Malcolm Butler was in for special teams and Alfonzo Dennard was inactive.