Patriots lose five players to injury vs. Dolphins, including Ebner and Flowers

Patriots lose five players to injury vs. Dolphins, including Ebner and Flowers

FOXBORO -- When Trey Flowers went down late in the third quarter of Sunday's win over the Dolphins, the Patriots medical staff had already had itself a busy day. And it didn't end there. 

The Patriots began the game with six players -- David Andrews, Martellus Bennett, Marcus Cannon, Chris Hogan, Eric Rowe and Matthew Slater -- who weren't healthy enough to play. Then over the course of their 35-17 victory they lost six more players to injury for at least some portion of the game.

Nate Ebner suffered a knee injury during New England's first drive when he successfully converted a fake punt for a first down. He was ruled out soon after leaving the game, indicating that it was serious. Another core special teamer, Trevor Reilly, left the game with a concussion and did not return when he collided violently with Miami's Senorise Perry during a Patriots kickoff. 


Marquis Flowers and Trey Flowers were injured during the same play -- a Trey Flowers sack deep in Miami territory -- and were tended to by trainers on the field before being helped off. Marquis Flowers returned to the game, but his teammate did not. 

After the game, both players indicated that they were OK. Trey Flowers, who was announced as having a rib injury, played 35 snaps in the game before leaving. For the season, he has played 88 percent of the snaps -- a serious increase from last season when he came into his own later in the year -- and said that he feels as though he's handling the workload well.

"I'm good," Flowers said. "It's football. You gotta take care of your body. You gotta be a pro about it. I think I'm doing an all right job."

The Patriots also lost linebacker Kyle Van Noy and right tackle LaAdrian Waddle to injuries suffered against the Dolphins.

Waddle had a player fall on the back of his right leg in the fourth quarter. He wore a walking boot as he left the locker room but indicated that the full extent of the injury was not yet known.

Van Noy left the game after recording a fourth-quarter sack. Team doctor Mark Price seemed to be looking at Van Noy's lower right leg and right calf before the hybrid linebacker-slash-end exited. 

After the game, Bill Belichick spoke to the challenge that in-game injuries pose for a coaching staff that has to figure out how to adjust on the fly.

"We obviously practice our backups to each position, but . . . when multiple players are injured and particularly when it’s on one play, then it creates a little bit of a scramble," Belichick said. "A bigger problem -- I’m not saying that’s not a big problem -- but even a bigger problem is in the kicking game because you have six units on special teams. You have kickoff, kickoff return, punt and punt return, field goal, field goal block, so when you lose a player there, like when Nate [Ebner] went down, you lose a guy that’s on five of those six teams and it’s not always the same guy replacing him. So it could be this guy on this team, that guy on another team and so forth and then you add a couple of guys in, so that’s challenging.

"For the coaches and the players, that’s part of football, unfortunately. We have to practice those situations and everybody needs to know who’s behind who. Sometimes it knocks you out of a certain grouping or a certain unit that you have out there, but you know that if you get knocked out of that then you back it up with something else, whatever your alternative group is.

"That’s just something as a coach that you have to be ready to do in all three phases of the game. If you have a guy that’s a key guy in one particular group, or unit or personnel groping, and then he’s not available, then you have to maybe go to a different grouping. You have to make that adjustment. Sometimes you put another guy in for him and stay the same. Depending on which one of those it is, that’s the challenge."


Patriots suffer defensive wounds against Dolphins


Patriots suffer defensive wounds against Dolphins

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- The number of points the Patriots allowed in their 27-20 loss to the Dolphins on Monday night was the most they'd given up in more than two months. And they were lucky it wasn't more.

New England's defense had breakdowns across the board against Adam Gase's offense, allowing Jay Cutler to complete 25 of 38 passes for 263 yards and three touchdowns. Had it not been for four Dolphins drops -- including one that nearly went for a long touchdown to Jakeem Grant -- Cutler's numbers would've been even better.

Here's a look at some of the issues the Patriots exhibited at Hard Rock Stadium. If they're going to get them cleaned up before next weekend's game in Pittsburgh against one of the NFL's best offenses, Matt Patricia is going to have a busy week on his hands.

The once-retired veteran has been a mostly dink-and-dunk style quarterback this season, but he aired it out with some success on Monday. Credit Gase and his staff for drawing up a plan that forced the Patriots to cover "every blade of grass." Without much pressure from the Patriots defense (more on that later), they stretched Bill Belichick's defense both horizontally and vertically. They found open crossers for much of the evening, utilizing Cutler's mobility to roll out and find receivers running across formations. They also caught the Patriots on some deep attempts. The first that had a shot came early in the second half when Julius Thomas let a big-gainer slip through his hands. Three plays later, Cutler found Grant for a 25-yard touchdown when Grant out-jumped Malcolm Butler for the 50-50 ball.

"Should've been more aggressive," Butler said after the game. "Should've went up, played the ball a little better. Think I competed well, but I think in that case competing wasn't good enough."

Butler gave a step to Grant again in the fourth quarter, but Cutler's pass bounced off of Grant's fingers and fell the would-be touchdown pass fell incomplete.

The entire front seven for the Patriots had their issues on Monday night, which made sense given the personnel. Without Kyle Van Noy, Trey Flowers and Alan Branch (ruled out with a knee injury during the game), the Dolphins hovered around 4.8 yards per carry until late in the contest. In coverage, Patriots linebackers -- in particular Elandon Roberts, who allowed 77 yards on three catches -- had their issues. But the team's pass rush has to be a concern as well. The Patriots managed just three hits on Cutler in the game. Two were sacks. Both Devin McCourty and Adam Butler came up with one. The other hit came in the first quarter when Eric Lee put a lick on Cutler as Cutler let an incompletion fly. Lee was the team's most productive rusher with three additional hurries. Eric Rowe also had a hurry on a corner blitz in the fourth quarter. Jordan Richards came up with a pressure of his own that should've resulted in more. Which leads us to . . . 

On Miami's final drive of the first half, the Patriots seemed to have their opponents stuffed in the red zone yet again. Richards shot a gap on the interior and had a clean hit lined up on Cutler, but he missed the takedown, and Cutler found Kenyan Drake for eight yards and a first down. Brutal. One play later, Cutler found Jarvis Landry to make the score 13-7. Richards' miss was, in essence, a four-point play. Roberts missed a first-quarter tackle that led to a Drake 26-yard run, and Landry stiff-armed Jones to the ground soon thereafter to give the Patriots another miss. In the third quarter, Drake spun out of a potential Patrick Chung tackle and scooted for 31 yards to set up Landry's second touchdown of the game.

The Patriots were expected to see bunch formation after bunch formation when they struggled to defend them against the Panthers in Week 4. Instead, they weren't inundated with bunch looks. They saw them only periodically and handled them well. But the Dolphins were relentless with their bunch sets. The Patriots seemed to have them figured out for the most part, but Landry got loose out of a bunch formation near the goal line, leading to his second score of the game. And in the third quarter, on a third-and-four play, the Patriots appeared to be almost too ready for a pick out of a tight two-man set. Jonathan Jones, seemingly anticipating contact, lost Kenny Stills off the line of scrimmage and gave up an 11-yard completion for a crucial first down. Two plays later, the Dolphins were in the end zone.


NFL Network suspends analysts over sexual misconduct suit


NFL Network suspends analysts over sexual misconduct suit

NEW YORK -- Hall of Fame player Marshall Faulk and two other NFL Network analysts have been suspended after a former employee alleged sexual misconduct in a lawsuit.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy on Tuesday identified the three as Faulk, Ike Taylor and Heath Evans. He says they have been "suspended from their duties at NFL Network pending an investigation into these allegations."

According to court documents first reported by Bloomberg, former wardrobe stylist Jami Cantor described several sexually inappropriate encounters with the three retired NFL players and others who have worked for the NFL Network.

Former NFL Network executive Eric Weinberger and former NFL Network analyst Donovan McNabb are among those named in the suit. McNabb now works for ESPN.

Cantor worked at the NFL Network for a decade. She filed an amended complaint originally filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in October.