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    Patriots Notebook

    With Vince Wilfork out, Chris Jones fills huge void

    Chris Jones will take a bigger role on the Patriots’s defense for the rest of the season.
    Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
    Chris Jones will take a bigger role on the Patriots’s defense for the rest of the season.

    Rookie defensive tackle Chris Jones was active for the first time this season for Sunday night's game, and once Vince Wilfork was injured, it was a good thing the Patriots had him available.

    The 6-foot-1-inch, 309-pound Jones has been with New England since Sept. 12, when he was claimed off waivers from the Buccaneers.

    A Bowling Green product — he had 12½ sacks as a senior last fall — Jones was a sixth-round pick of the Texans in April (198th overall) but was released out of training camp and was claimed by Tampa Bay.


    Asked about Jones Monday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said the team long has had its eye on the Indiana native.

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    “We did all the players coming out of the draft and Chris was part of that process; he ended up being drafted by Houston. We claimed him at the final cut, [but] Tampa had the priority and got him,” Belichick said. “When they, I guess, got in a roster bind and had to release him, we were able to claim him a second time.

    “This is the first game he was active so he’s had a couple weeks of practice, a lot of meetings with Coach [Patrick] Graham [defensive line coach] and extra work on the field, before and after practice, especially after practice: one-on-ones and different group drills that we do and so forth. I think he’s getting a better familiarity with our system and our communication and the techniques that we play and all that.”

    Belichick noted that while with the Texans, Jones played both nose tackle and end in their 3-4 alignment. New England has played primarily with a four-man front this season, but Jones’s experience at nose could come in handy.

    Jones played 19 snaps against the Falcons.


    “I think just overall getting familiar with what we do, our calls, his assignments, block reactions – those kind of things have gotten better over the last couple weeks,” Belichick said of Jones. “He was active for the game and had an opportunity to play some last night. Hopefully he can build on that.”

    A nice catch

    Tight end Matthew Mulligan’s first reception as a member of the Patriots was the team’s first touchdown in Atlanta, when he was quarterback Tom Brady’s target on third down from a yard out early in the second quarter.

    “He had a big catch on third down in the red area,” Belichick said. “Good throw, tight throw, but a good throw and good catch.”

    Mulligan, a Maine native who played at the University of Maine, came into the NFL in 2008 as a rookie free agent signed by the Dolphins. He split his first season between the practice squads in Miami and Tennessee, and was signed by the Jets in 2009.

    It was with the Jets that he got his first game action, playing in 34 games over the 2009-11 seasons.


    Last year Mulligan was with the Rams, with eight catches, including his first career touchdown, over 16 games. He spent training camp with Green Bay this year before being released Aug. 31. He initially was signed by the Patriots three days later.

    “We’ve seen him through the years, played against him when he was at the Jets,” Belichick said. “We’ve been able to see him through his travels through the league. He’s a tough kid, smart. He came in here and picked things up and learned them pretty quickly.”

    Mulligan played in a season-high 15 snaps against Atlanta.

    Davis released

    The Patriots released safety Kanorris Davis. He was promoted off the practice squad Saturday and played on special teams Sunday night . . . Patriots-Falcons was the most-watched network television program for the week of Sept. 23, despite going against shows making their fall premiere. In the Boston market, the Patriots’ 30-23 win drew an overnight rating of 36.0.

    Shalise Manza Young can be reached at