FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft says health is the great equalizer in the NFL, as injuries can change the picture in an instant. The Patriots had an alarmingly high total of players leave Sunday's win over the Miami Dolphins, so let's recap the situation and the possible trickle-down effect.
DE Trey Flowers: The team's top player at the position who, entering the day, had been on the field for 91 percent of the defensive snaps, injured his ribs on a sack with 4 minutes, 22 seconds remaining in the third quarter. He briefly returned to the game, but then retreated to the locker room and didn't return after that. Flowers, who has a team-high six sacks, spoke with reporters after the game, which seems to be an indication that the injury isn't overly seriously, but he still figures to land on the injury report. Defensive end is arguably the Patriots' thinnest position on the roster.
S Nate Ebner (knee): A trip to injured reserve seems like a strong possibility for the core special teams player, who went down in a heap while successfully converting a 14-yard rush on a fake punt in the first quarter. He entered the day leading the Patriots with eight special teams tackles and is the type of player who might not be able to be replaced with just one teammate. Practice squad receiver Cody Hollister had an extensive special teams background at Arkansas and perhaps he might be a consideration. The possible return of special teams captain Matthew Slater, who has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury, would also help soften the blow.
LB Trevor Reilly (concussion): In a high-speed, helmet-to-helmet collision at the start of the third quarter, the core special teams player is likely to land in the concussion protocol. As an example of how the Patriots had to adjust things to replace him in the second half, they tapped multiple players (a group including tight end Dwayne Allen) for his various roles. Reilly's availability for Sunday's game in Buffalo seems shaky at this point, and since he also contributes as an end-of-the-line defender at times, he'd be missed there as well (especially with Flowers' status in possible question).
LB Marquis Flowers (right knee): Injured on the same play as Trey Flowers late in the third quarter, he returned to the game and appeared to be fine afterward. Marquis Flowers' primary role is in the kicking game and in obvious sub packages on defense.
OT LaAdrian Waddle (right ankle): Filling in for starter Marcus Cannon, Waddle was hurt early in the fourth quarter and was replaced by Cameron Fleming the rest of the way. Cannon has missed the past three games after injuring his ankle Oct. 29 against the Chargers, so his potential return would help. If he's not ready, and Waddle needs time, Fleming would be the next man up and line coach Dante Scarnecchia has called him a starting-caliber player earlier this year. With Cannon and starting center David Andrews (illness) having been sidelined, the Patriots might have to consider a roster move if those two, plus Waddle, aren't ready this week.
LB Kyle Van Noy (right leg): He left the game with 9:44 left in the fourth quarter and did not return after attempting to walk to the sideline but falling to the ground instead after registering a sack. It could have been a cramp, as Van Noy was still limping in the locker room after the game. Van Noy has become a valuable Swiss-army knife defender for the Patriots and there likely wouldn't be one player to replace him if he wasn't available.