FOXBORO -- When Julian Edelman went down with a season-ending knee injury in the preseason, it seemed as though there were a handful of other Patriots who had suddenly become indispensible. On both sides of the ball.
The thinking went: One more injury to a key player, and the fate of the Patriots' season may be in jeopardy.
Near the top of that list: linebacker Dont'a Hightower.
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Hightower left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury after Chiefs offensive lineman Mitch Morse fell on the outside of his right leg in the third quarter. Hightower remained on the ground for a few moments before eventually getting to his feet and slowly walking off the field under his own power.
Later, Hightower emerged from the injury tent behind the Patriots bench and made his way over to a stationary bike. His knee was wrapped heavily for a time, though he remained on the sidelines with his teammates.
Should Hightower miss any significant portion of time, the Patriots front-seven would be without its leader, and the relatively thin Patriots linebacker unit would be thinned even further.
To begin the game, the Patriots used safety Jordan Richards as a linebacker on the end of the line opposite Hightower. Newcomer Cassius Marsh, another edge player, saw significant work after being traded to the Patriots less than a week ago. Kyle Van Noy tied for the team lead in snaps played with 68. David Harris, meanwhile, saw just two snaps as the Patriots relied on dime packages for much of the night.
The Patriots were dealt another blow on the injury front when Danny Amendola left the game with a head injury in the third quarter and did not return. The team's No. 3 receiver, and their primary slot option against the Chiefs, had six catches on seven targets for 100 yards and seemed to be shaken up after a punt return.
Headed into the game, there was some question as to what the Patriots would do at their punt-return spot. Amendola was their most experienced returner, yet his importance to the offense -- as the No. 3 receiver on a team that had only three healthy wideouts with experience in the system -- may have made the injury risk of that job too great.
Amendola was the choice to return, though, adding a few extra hits to the total he saw on Thursday with Edelman out. When Amendola left the game, Patrick Chung was used as the team's punt-returner.
If Amendola is forced to miss time going forward, the Patriots would utilize Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett as their top three wideouts, in all likelihood. Malcolm Mitchell was placed on injured reserve Thursday, and special-teams ace Matthew Slater (who has been used sparingly as a receiver in the past) did not play against the Chiefs due to injury.
Amendola is also the team's top slot receiver in Edelman's absence, meaning tight ends and running backs may have to help shoulder the workload if Amendola needs to miss playing time in order to recover.