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If McCourty's down, Molden's up

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- With starting cornerback Devin McCourty leaving Sunday's win over the Jets in the second quarter with a separated shoulder, it thrust backup Antwaun Molden into the lineup.

Molden played 46 of a possible 76 snaps -- one of which came when he was in man coverage on Plaxico Burress' touchdown catch -- and was another example of the "next-man-up" theme highlighting the Patriots' victory.

This might have had some asking, "Who's Molden?"

A third-round pick of the Houston Texans in 2008, he was claimed on waivers by the Patriots at the end of training camp. He had played sparingly on defense for the Texans, contributing mostly on special teams.

The Patriots had shown interest in the 6-foot-1, 198 pound Molden when he was coming out of Eastern Kentucky, as he was brought to Gillette Stadium for one of the team's pre-draft visits. But the club ended up selecting Terrence Wheatley (second round) instead of him.

Here is how Molden's snaps have progressed over the course of the season:

Dolphins: 0

Chargers: 2

Bills: 1

Raiders: 30

Jets: 2

Cowboys: 6

Steelers: 42

Giants: 0

Jets: 46

The spike in the Raiders game was a result of nickel corner Leigh Bodden missing that game with injury. That was similar to the Steelers' game, as Bodden had been released two days prior, thrusting Molden into Bodden's nickel role.

Molden had a challenging day in Pittsburgh, leading the coaches to replace him with Phillip Adams in the third quarter as well as the ensuing Giants' game. Molden said he went back to the film and worked to correct his technique errors.

Now, with McCourty's injury, Molden is primed to be back in the lineup and could receive his first career start Monday against the Chiefs. He said he's ready if that's the case, as his goal is to be the best prepared.

As for what he sees from the Chiefs' receivers, he said, "They're underrated. It's a good core of receivers with [Steve] Breaston, [Dwayne] Bowe and the first-round pick from Pittsburgh [Jonathan Baldwin]. They're athletic, big, and good after the catch."