Patriots undeterred by rash of injuries

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- With the bye week upon them, the New England Patriots have managed to pile up seven victories in their first nine games.

That’s the good news.

Unfortunately, injuries also have piled up, as the team placed yet another defensive veteran on injured reserve on Saturday in defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, and Sunday brought more bumps and bruises.

Safety Steve Gregory left the game with a right thumb injury, while defensive end Rob Ninkovich missed the latter part of the second half after injuring his foot in the third quarter. Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard left the game late, although the nature of his injury is unclear.

None of the players addressed the media after the game, though Ninkovich was in the locker room and did not show any noticeable limp in walking around.

Already down captains Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork for the season, the Patriots also were without top cornerback Aqib Talib on Sunday, as he missed his third straight game due to a hip issue.

As has been the case throughout the season, Sunday’s injuries led to another opportunity to test the “next man up” approach that has for so long been a pillar to the team’s success.

Gregory was replaced by rookie safety Duron Harmon, who had his second interception in as many weeks, while veteran Andre Carter, recently re-signed, notched his first sack of the season in relief duty of Ninkovich.

Once again, fill-in players stepped up, though dealing with all the injuries has been admittedly tough for the Patriots.

“You just keep playing, I mean, it’s tough,” captain and defensive back Devin McCourty said. “You think about it, but we know we’ve got to win games and we know whatever guy goes down, the first thing he’s thinking is ‘how can we win this game’ and that’s what he wants for the team.”

The defense has been hit particularly hard, but the offense hasn’t gone unscathed. Starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer missed his first game of the season as he was placed on injured reserve this past Tuesday, while veteran wideout Austin Collie left Sunday’s game with a knee injury.

Battered as they may be, the Patriots won’t use injuries as an excuse, rather focusing on the task at hand to continue to win games.

“This team, we just gather together and understand what happened and then we move and we play,” McCourty said. “We love playing with each other, we enjoy each other and I think that’s why we come out and we play hard each play out there, each game for each other.”