By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Through the deluge and all of those bodies crashing into each other throughout Sunday night’s Patriots win over the Ravens, you probably noticed that you were seeing a lot of Chase Winovich. Normally it’s not a big deal when you see a lot of a football player playing football, but for Winovich, playing time has been no guarantee this season.
The edge man/linebacker has never been an every-down player for the New England defense in his brief career with the Patriots, but it was alarming to see Winovich become a barely-any-down player over the last month. His drastic decline in playing time was attributed to New England’s game-plan defense, and during those weeks, Wino just wasn’t in the team’s plans.
But given New England’s lack of depth at inside linebacker and Baltimore’s run-heavy offense, Winovich was very much in the plans Sunday evening. And the second-year player delivered with an impressive evening, showing everyone that he is up to the challenge to not only play every down, but also fill in on the inside of the defense.
Winovich played 65 snaps during Sunday’s 23-17 win, on the field for 98 percent of New England’s defensive plays. He was not just a situational pass-rusher — the role he’s served the most of his year-and-a-half in the NFL — but played off the ball against the Baltimore run. He finished the night with seven tackles — including six solo stops — as the Patriots defense held Baltimore to just 115 rushing yards for the evening.
The 23-year-old was all smiles after Sunday’s victory. Not even a late-game downpour could wash away his joy.
“I’ve always said that I’m a football player just looking for opportunities to help the team win any way possible. This was a really fun game for a lot of reasons, but getting to play off the ball again was something I definitely enjoyed,” he said. “I view myself as a pretty versatile football player. ”
Winovich thanked his teammates and coaches for helping prepare him for his expanded role and for helping him adjust mid-game. Off-the-ball linebacker is not a position he’s very experienced in, but he felt comfortable thanks to everyone around him.
That, and his “get the ball-carrier at all costs” attitude.
“I have never played a game that much off the ball since high school. If you go back and watch my high school tape, it really felt like I was playing high school ball in a way. I had a blast,” he said. “I love just being in a position where I can pursue and play physical, so when I am in a position like that it allows me to make the most of some of my attributes. Just being able to attack and play and come off the edge and penetrate and make fast decisions and use my instincts.”
It was just two weeks ago that Winovich played only five snaps against the Buffalo Bills. That was the nadir of his sharp decline in playing time, which he had no real explanation for. But being ready to perform — and perform out of his usual comfort zone — earned Winovich the praise of Bill Belichick on Sunday night.
The head coach said that it all started with a good week of practice for Winovich.
“When you play the Ravens, you have to play good team defense. One guy can’t stop what they do. They have too many options in the running game and they create too many — they can hit too many spots all at once on an individual play. But Chase had a great week of preparation and played hard and we’ll see what the film looked like, but he was definitely aggressive and I think he did a good job in the role that we asked him to do,” said Belichick. “He and John Simon were really key guys for us along with the defensive line in trying to handle the running game.”
Since this is the Patriots we’re talking about, Winovich could easily find himself back to playing single digit snaps when the team visits the Houston Texans in Week 11. But after his performance against the Ravens, Winovich showed that he’s a man of many talents, and well worth another look in his new expanded role.