BOSTON (CBS) – The only piece of bad news the Patriots received on Sunday was the loss of Rob Ninkovich, who left in the first half of New England’s 28-0 win over the Dolphins.

Ninkovich did not return after suffering a hip injury in the second quarter. He immediately went to the Patriots locker room after being helped off the field, and was not seen in the locker room after the win.

The loss of Ninkovich would be a big blow to the Patriots defense, as he forced five fumbles during the regular season and lead the team with eight sacks. He played a big role in each of the Patriots games this season, including his game-clinching strip sack of Mark Sanchez in New England’s October 21 overtime win over the Jets.

The Patriots secured a first-round bye with their win on Sunday, giving Ninkovich and the slew of other dinged-up Patriots an extra week to recoup. But should Ninkovich miss extended time, the Patriots will look to defensive end Trevor Scott to fill the void throughout the postseason. Scott saw an increase in his playing time as the regular season drew to a close, registering his three sacks over the final four weeks — including one on Sunday.

In addition to Scott, the Patriots will look for rookies Chandler Jones, who had a stellar first season in the NFL with six sacks and three forced fumbles, and Justin Francis, who recorded three sacks against the Dolphins on Sunday.

This is very similiar to last season, when the Patriots lost their best pass-rusher in Andrew Carter in Week 15. They made due without Carter, with Ninkovich stepping into the defensive end role.

In his five games filling in that spot, Ninkovich had three sacks and a pair of forced fumbles. Now, the Patriots could find themselves hoping someone else can step in an duplicate that performance.


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