BOSTON (CBS) — If an ugly loss wasn’t bad enough, the Patriots have a pair of key injuries to deal with as they wake up 0-1 on Friday morning.
Linebacker Dont’a Hightower and receiver Danny Amendola were both injured during Thursday night’s 42-27 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, putting even more strain on an already thin New England depth chart.
Hightower, who didn’t play during the preseason, watched much of the second half while riding a stationary bike on the sideline. He was injured when Chiefs center Mitch Morse rolled up on his right leg at the line of scrimmage, twisting it awkwardly. Hightower remained down on the field for a few minutes before being assisted to the medical tent on the sideline. He was spotted with a heavy wrap over his right knee on the sideline, and though it looked like Hightower grabbed his helmet and was ready to get back in the game at one point, he did not and the Chiefs were able to carve up the New England D the rest of the way. Kansas City exploded for 21 points in the fourth quarter.
Thin in the pass rush department, the Patriots experimented with Hightower along the edge of the defensive line. That threw their depthless linebacking corps out of sorts, which was exacerbated when Hightower went down. It put more on Kyle Van Noy’s plate and led to more playing time for newcomer Cassius Marsh, who got turned around in coverage at one point and had a great view from behind on Kareem Hunt’s 78-yard touchdown. Without Hightower, an ugly defensive performance got a whole lot uglier.
Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia now have a lot of tinkering to do leading up to a Week 2 matchup against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. But their options will be extremely limited if Hightower is set to take his annual injury sojourn.
Update: There’s a chance Hightower could play in Week 2 according to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport:
Amendola’s injury will also make for more work for Josh McDaniels and the New England offense, as well as their special teams unit. Amendola suffered a concussion while fielding a third quarter punt, the third time he’s been injured on a punt return during his five years in New England. It’s always a risk sending Amendola out to field punts, but the Patriots were left with no option after Julian Edelman and Cyrus Jones were both lost for the year during the preseason.
With Amendola out for the fourth quarter on Thursday, the Patriots had to rely on Phillip Dorsett (acquired from Indianapolis last week for Jacoby Brissett) as their No. 3 receiver. Safety Patrick Chung took over on punt-return duties, calling for a fair catch on the only kick he saw.
Amendola had six receptions for 100 yards before going down, proving to be a big part of what made the New England offense go in the first half. With his health now in question, along with Malcolm Mitchell landing on the IR ahead of the game, the Patriots have just three healthy receivers on the roster: Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan and Dorsett. Even with tight end Rob Gronkowski and a full stable of running backs, that’s not an ideal situation for Brady’s offense.
At least Belichick and the Patriots have 10 days to try to figure things out before the Patriots take on the Saints in New Orleans.