FOXBOROUGH — The reshuffling along the Patriots’ offensive line continued as the team trotted out a new combination for the fifth straight game.
Injuries and COVID-19 reserve list additions have wreaked havoc with the big uglies this season, though the group continues to plug away.
Against the Broncos, left guard Joe Thuney made his second career start at center, left tackle Isaiah Wynn moved to left guard for the first time in his career, and rookie Justin Herron slid into Wynn’s spot for his first career start at that spot. Fellow rookie Mike Onwenu made his fifth straight start and second at right guard.
The scrambling continued when right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor, who returned after missing the Chiefs game with a migraine, injured his ankle in the first quarter and was unable to return. This forced Onwenu to bump to right tackle and Hjalte Froholdt to slide in at guard for his first career offensive snaps.
Despite the mixing and matching, the line did some solid work, committing zero penalties and blocking for a run game that piled up 117 yards. Cam Newton was sacked four times and hit seven times, however.
Thuney acknowledged it’s tough to develop continuity when the line is in a state of flux, but he said that comes with the territory.
“It’s football, it’s a physical game and people get injured or things happen with illnesses and stuff,” he said. “You’ve got to keep rolling with the punches and try to build that chemistry regardless of the time together. You’ve got to keep communicating, keep working, keep fighting together. But we’ll stick together, and we’ll try to learn from this one and keep improving.”
The Patriots could get a big boost this week as starting center David Andrews (thumb surgery) is eligible to come off injured reserve.
Butler, Izzo dinged up
The Patriots suffered two other minor first-half injuries.
Defensive tackle Adam Butler, who has been nursing a shoulder injury for the better part of a month, went down with a right elbow injury and tight end Ryan Izzo missed a play after he was hit and pushed back awkwardly following a 12-yard reception.
Butler spent time on the sideline with a resistance band and sat out the rest of the first half. He played in the second half with a brace on his elbow.
Izzo was helped to the sideline but came back quickly; he shook it off and grabbed a 10-yard reception on his first play back.
Stidham leapfrogs Hoyer
Jarrett Stidham leapfrogged Brian Hoyer on the quarterback depth chart as he served as Newton’s backup Sunday.
Stidham was inactive for the first three weeks of the season before serving as Hoyer’s understudy in the Week 4 loss in Kansas City. Stidham relieved Hoyer in the second half of the Chiefs loss, throwing his first career touchdown and a pair of interceptions.
Hoyer was one of five inactive Patriots, including running back J.J. Taylor, tight end Dalton Keene, cornerback Myles Bryant, and newly acquired defensive tackle Carl Davis.
Newton gaining ground
Newton rushed 10 times for 76 yards and is just the second QB to record more than 5,000 career rushing yards. Newton (5,031) trails only Michel Vick (6,109) on the all-time list … Julian Edelman was 2 of 2 passing and is 7 of 8 for 179 yards and 2 touchdowns for a perfect 158.3 passer rating in his career. He is 6 for 6 in the regular season … This was the first time in the Bill Belichick era that the Patriots didn’t win a game when they did not allow a touchdown (39-1) … Linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley recorded his first career sack, combining with Shilique Calhoun for a 12-yard takedown of Drew Lock … Fellow linebacker Anfernee Jennings made his first career start and had three tackles … Isaiah Zuber’s 16-yard reception was the first of his career … Stidham and Lock chatted briefly at midfield about 2½ hours before kickoff. They were training partners ahead of the 2019 draft.
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