ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Sunday’s 37-22 win that sent the Patriots into first place in the AFC East was tempered by injuries to three starters, including leading rusher Stevan Ridley and leading tackler Jerod Mayo.
Both Mayo and Ridley were knocked out with knee injuries, and both appeared to be serious. Dan Connolly, who started at left guard for the third straight week after starting at center for the first three games, left with a head injury; he’s missed multiple games in past seasons with concussions.
“It’s tragic, what happened,” said cornerback Darrelle Revis. He was talking about Mayo, but it was a difficult injury day overall for the Patriots, who now have a very short week to prepare for their next game. The Jets visit Gillette Stadium for a Thursday night game.
Mayo went down midway through the second quarter, and immediately reacted as if he knew the injury was serious. He was carted off the field, but not before some of his defensive teammates — not to mention Bills linebacker Brandon Spikes, who played with Mayo the previous four seasons with the Patriots — came over to offer support as he was being taken away.
“He affects all of us. We were right there when he got hurt, and we told him we were going to win this game for him,” Revis said.
Mayo suffered a torn pectoral muscle in the sixth game last year, and missed the rest of the season.
“Unfortunately, he’s been in that position before. Having that experience, I think it helps us going forward,” said defensive end Rob Ninkovich. “You never like to lose anybody, but in this game there’s always going to be situations where guys go down with injuries. I don’t know what it is, I’m not going to look into anything more than he wasn’t able to make it through this game. We’ll see what it is.
“Jerod is a great leader for this team, and he still is.”
Mayo’s injury made the Patriots thin at linebacker, because Dont’a Hightower (knee injury) was not active for the game. Tavon Wilson, typically a safety, saw some snaps at the linebacker level, and Chris White also played.
Mayo is expected to have tests performed on his knee Monday to determine the severity of the injury, as will Ridley, who hurt his right knee while making a third-quarter carry that lost 2 yards (he finished with 23 yards on 10 rushes).
Ridley was not carted off, but he was spotted after the game wearing a large knee brace and using crutches.
Asked after the game if there was any update on Ridley, Patriots coach Bill Belichick gave a one-word answer: “Nope.”
Brandon Bolden and Shane Vereen picked up some carries in Ridley’s absence.
“Down, of course,” said Vereen, when asked how Ridley’s spirits were. “No one’s spirits are going to be up in a situation like this. Everyone’s kind of down for him, for Mayo, for Connolly, everybody.”
Connolly was actually the first to leave the game, in the second quarter, and he was replaced by Jordan Devey. It was once again a makeshift offensive line, with rookie center Bryan Stork — who had started the past two games — not making the trip because of a head injury suffered in practice last week. So Ryan Wendell moved from right guard to center, and Josh Kline started at right guard.
“You’ve always got to be ready, because you never know what can happen. Someone can go down, or someone can even get sick, so you’ve always got to be ready,” said Kline, who had been inactive for four of the Patriots’ first five games, and played limited snaps against the Vikings. “That’s what they preach: Anything you can do to help the team.”
The patchwork line didn’t allow Tom Brady to be sacked in the second half.
“We had a lot of guys step up,” Belichick said. “We had some people go down. Backs when Stevan went down, and linebackers when Jerod went down. Those guys did a good job.”
Tight end Rob Gronkowski left the game briefly — likely making Patriots fans extremely nervous — but he returned on the next series.