FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 10: Jerod Mayo #51 of the New England Patriots defends against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium on December 10, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
The afterglow of Sunday's last-second win over the Saints was short-lived for the Patriots. The team suffered another huge blow on defense, this time losing linebacker Jerod Mayo for the rest of the season after he underwent pectoral surgery Tuesday.
"He does a lot for us, on the field, off the field," coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday morning. "We're just going to have to move on."
The news comes weeks after nose tackle Vince Wilfork landed on injured reserve after rupturing his Achilles tendon.
"Those are two damning blows, and now there are a few jabs to duck," writes MassLive.com's Nick Underhill. "Wilfork's tag-team partner, Tommy Kelly, is on the shelf with a knee injury that kept him out of action Sunday, and (cornerback Aqib) Talib left that game with a hip injury. It is not yet known how serious those situations are, but the fact that they exist at all is bad enough."
The good news starts with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady -- both are still around -- and we know at some point, tight end Rob Gronkowski will return to the lineup. Plus, as Underhill notes, "It's possible that Talib and Kelly will quickly be back on the field and that some combination of Dont'a Hightower, Brandon Spikes, Jamie Collins and Dane Fletcher will gloss over the loss of Mayo. And if everything breaks just right with those situations, maybe rookies Joe Vellano and Chris Jones can continue to fill void left by Wilfork."
That's a lot of "what ifs," but the Patriots gave themselves a cushion with last Sunday's win. Next up: a rematch with the Jets, whom they lead in the AFC East by 1.5 games. A victory there widens that gap as we approach the halfway point of the season.