FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots suffered a potentially devastating blow in Sunday's 27-10 victory over the Redskins at Gillette Stadium.
Running back Dion Lewis, who has provided such a spark to the offense with his quickness and versatility, left midway through the third quarter with a left knee injury after a 14-yard reception.
It was a noncontact injury for Lewis, who appeared to reach for his leg as he was falling. He walked off the field several minutes after being attended to by the medical staff. He didn't have a noticeable limp but was escorted to the locker room immediately. He received a hug and some words of encouragement from defensive coordinator Matt Patricia.
There was no word on the severity of Lewis's injury after the game, with coach Bill Belichick offering only, "The game is just over, so . . . "
CBS reported that the team believes it's an MCL sprain.
Several teammates, including LeGarrette Blount and Matthew Slater, rushed to the field when Lewis went down.
"It's unfortunate,'' said Blount. "Dion is probably one of my closest friends on the team. Obviously he's one of my guys. You just hope for the best.''
Tom Brady issued similar thoughts.
"It's such a physical game and tough to lose such a special player,'' he said. "I hope he's OK. I don't know exactly what it is, but we're all hoping for the best.''
Vollmer (head) exits
The Patriots also lost Sebastian Vollmer, who suffered a head injury early on, forcing several moves along an already thin offensive line.
Right tackle Cameron Fleming moved over to protect Brady's blindside, while Bryan Stork, a center, moved to right tackle.
Asked the last time he played left tackle, a wide-eyed Fleming said, "Never.''
Stork, playing in his first game since being activated off the PUP list, was nonchalant about the moves. Stork actually played center, guard, and tackle Sunday. It was his first action at tackle since college
"You just do it,'' said Stork. "As an offensive lineman, you have to see the big picture and do your job.''
Asked if it felt good to be back after missing the first seven games, Stork said, "I love football so it was good to get back. Just gotta keep working hard.''
After scoring a touchdown on the game's opening drive, the Patriots reached into their trick-play pocket and pulled out a surprise onside kick. Stephen Gostkowski squirted the ball to the right side, where Washington receiver Ryan Grant attempted to field it. The ball hit off Grant's hands, and linebacker Jonathan Freeny recovered for the Patriots.
"It's exciting to get a chance to do something like that. If you do a surprise kick like that you're taking a chance, so it's a high-risk, high-reward kind of thing. The worst thing that could happen is they got the ball," said Gostkowski, who also remained perfect on the season by going 2 for 2 on field goals and making all three extra points.
"It shows that they have faith that our special teams can go out there and handle a situation like that and do it. It's a moment that I haven't got to experience too often in the NFL, so it was a lot of fun."
Freeny was lined up to the left of Gostkowski, so he had quite a bit of ground to make up once he heard the play called on the sideline.
"I knew it was being kicked the opposite way of me, but I was like, if anything happened I'm going to run over there and get to the ball if it squirted out," Freeny said. "Luckily it did."
Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount talks after win
Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount talks about his running game and the offensive line after the Patriots win over the Redskins.
Freeny steps in
Freeny started at linebacker for the third time in four games, and played the majority of the defensive snaps next to Dont'a Hightower. Jamie Collins missed the game because of illness — just the second game Collins has missed in his three-year career — leaving the Patriots without their leading tackler.
"When I first heard he was sick, I thought it was more serious than we thought, because we heard about it [Saturday] night, we knew he wasn't feeling good," said Freeny, who had four tackles, forced a fumble, and recovered the onside kick. "We heard he couldn't play today and there was a little more concern, but from what I hear he's doing better, so I'm sure we'll see him tomorrow when we come in, and I'm sure he'll be doing better."
Logan Ryan again proved to be Johnny on the spot, recording his team-leading fourth interception. Since the start of 2013, Ryan is tied for second among cornerbacks with 11 picks. Only the Seahawks' Richard Sherman (12) has more. Brent Grimes (Dolphins) and Aqib Talib (Broncos) also have 11 . . . Chandler Jones recorded a sack, giving him a league-leading 9½ . . . The Patriots are the fourth defending Super Bowl champion to start 8-0, and the first since the 2011 Packers, who started 13-0 . . . It was New England's 11th straight win (including the postseason) . . . Gostkowski improved to 19 for 19 on the season with a pair of chip-shot (21 yards both) field goals . . . Julian Edelman set a career high with his seventh touchdown . . . In light of the Patriots placing veteran guard and captain Ryan Wendell on injured reserve Saturday, Patriots president Jonathan Kraft was asked if there might be changes to the IR rules, which allow for just one player per team per season to be designated for return. "Something like that makes sense,'' said Kraft on his pregame radio appearance. "The idea of expanding [short-term IR] may not be a bad idea.'' Stork, who was activated Saturday, was the Patriots' designated-to-return player this season after battling concussion and neck issues . . . Several military personnel were honored throughout Sunday's "Salute to Service'' game, including Fleming's mother, Karen, a 25-year Army veteran . . . Several Patriots are poised to visit Providence VA Medical Center on Tuesday to thank veterans for their service. The visit, in which players will sign autographs and hand out gift bags to the veterans, is part of the team's and the league's Salute to Service campaign.
Patriots wide receiver Brandon LaFell talks about running game
Patriots wide receiver Brandon LaFell talks about his running game against the Redskins and the injury to Dion Lewis.