FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When does a double-digit victory kind of feel like a loss?
One could point to the New England Patriots' 27-10 triumph over the Washington Redskins on Sunday as one example, as the downer of the day for the team was watching running back Dion Lewis leave with 5:40 remaining in the third quarter with what appeared to be a serious left knee injury.
The 5-foot-8, 195-pound Lewis has been a dynamic addition to the Patriots’ offense. Prior to the season opener, quarterback Tom Brady had told NBC commentators Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth that Lewis would soon be a cult hero in New England because of the exciting way he plays the game.
The team ruled him out shortly after he left the field, a sign that Lewis’ injury might be serious. Usually, the club initially designates players as questionable when they first leave a game.
If Lewis is out for an extended period of time, the Patriots have 2014 fourth-round draft pick James White and four-year veteran Brandon Bolden as other options on the roster. They also could explore bringing back Travaris Cadet, who was with the team in the offseason and throughout training camp before being released Sept. 29.
What it means: The Patriots improve to 8-0 and should remain the top team in ESPN’s Power Rankings for a ninth straight week. That was expected, but as noted with Lewis, the result might have come at a significant cost.
Ouch: In addition to Lewis, the Patriots also played the second half without starting left tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who left the game with a head injury (presumably a concussion). The team had entered the day with just six offensive linemen, so this required a shuffle of 2014 starting center Bryan Stork to right tackle and Cameron Fleming from right tackle to left tackle. The Patriots are piecing it together along the offensive line, but were dangerously close to running out of healthy bodies Sunday. Meanwhile, safety Duron Harmon had remained down with 46 seconds remaining in the game as the medical staff came on to look at him before he ultimately walked off under his own power. The severity of his injury is unclear.
One reason to get excited: The defense is getting it done. One week after holding the Miami Dolphins to seven points, they were stingy again against Washington. While neither opponent will be confused with being in the NFL’s “high-powered offense” category, it’s still a reflection of solid work by the Patriots. On Sunday, the defense did it without one of its leaders, linebacker Jamie Collins, who was out with an illness.
One reason to be concerned: Injuries. Not that anyone needed a reminder of how quickly an injury to a key player can change the outlook, but it came anyway. The Patriots are banged up along the offensive line, and if they are without Lewis, they lose one of their most dynamic players on offense.
Fantasy watch: Running back snaps are always important to chart from a fantasy perspective, and LeGarrette Blount (29 carries, 129 yards, TD) led the way with a season-high 47. His previous high was 31, in Week 3 against Jacksonville. Meanwhile, receiver Brandon LaFell led the Patriots with 102 receiving yards.
Surprise onside kick: Bill Belichick and special-teams coach Joe Judge made an early statement by calling for an onside kick after the Patriots scored on the opening possession of the game. Patriots linebacker Jonathan Freeny recovered it, and it looked like the blowout was on. But while the Patriots played with an urgency early, their momentum was thwarted by turnovers and it turned into a game in which they had to overcome a handful of mistakes to stay afloat.
Stat of the day: The Patriots committed two turnovers in the first quarter, when receiver Julian Edelman had the ball stripped out of his grasp and Brady fired an errant pass for an interception. How uncharacteristic was that? According to ESPN’s Stats & Information, the Patriots had two first-quarter turnovers in their previous 26 games combined.
What’s next: The Patriots visit the Giants on Nov. 15 at 4:25 p.m. ET. That sets up a reunion with running back Shane Vereen, who played for the Patriots from 2011 through 2014, saving his best for last in Super Bowl XLIX.