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Loss of key starters bound to affect Patriots’ timing

Dion Lewis had 40 yards rushing and 98 receiving against the Bills in Week 2, but the Patriots won’t have his services in the rematch. Barry Chin/Globe staff/Globe Staff

Monday night’s game will be the second of the season between the Patriots and Bills, with the teams meeting previously on Sept. 20 at Buffalo in Week 2. The Patriots’ leading rusher in that 40-32 win was Dion Lewis. Their leading receiver, with 11 catches and two touchdowns, was Julian Edelman.

Neither player will be in uniform this time. Lewis was placed on injured reserve last week after tearing a knee ligament against the Redskins Nov. 8. Edelman broke a bone in his foot during Sunday’s win over the Giants, and while he hasn’t been placed on IR or ruled out for the season, he might not return until the playoffs.


It’s not easy replacing such standout players, but the Patriots are a game-plan team, and will use the players that are available in the roles that leave the best chance for victory. Same as it’s always been.

“Sure, that will be challenging,” said coach Bill Belichick. “Aside from all the X’s and O’s and all that, just the amount of timing that those players have with each other, with the quarterback, with [offensive coordinator] Josh [McDaniels] and being able to have experience in doing a lot of those things, that’s really hard to replace. I mean, you just can’t do it.

“They’ve been out there taking a lot of snaps, a lot of reps, and getting that timing and that execution right, and the other person just hasn’t been able to do it. That’s an element of it that we’re going to have to try to obviously work on.”

Edelman’s 11 catches were good for 97 yards against the Bills, and Lewis added six catches for 98 yards. Replacing what each gave won’t be easy.

“Any time you incur an injury to a player as versatile as Julian or Dion, it’s never going to be one person’s responsibility to go in there and make up for that production,” McDaniels said.


“It’s our responsibility to try to take all the players that we have and move the ball on a consistent basis, take care of the ball and protect it, and score points.”

Tales of the tape

The Bills are expected to have almost the exact same starting lineup as the first meeting, although cornerback Leodis McKelvin recently came off the reserve/non-football injury list, and played in 30 of 59 snaps last week against the Jets in a reserve role.

So, Belichick was asked, which tape carries more value: The 40-32 film from the Sept. 20 win at Buffalo, or the Bills’ seven games since?

“If you could only watch one game, it would probably be our game, because that’s a lot of them and a lot of us,” he said., “but there are things in that game that probably won’t have a lot of application this week, so you have to kind of filter those out of it.

“If you’re looking for McKelvin, you’ve got to look at the last two games. You’re not going to see anything in our game for him. But our game definitely shows some matchups and some of the things and how Buffalo adjusted to certain things that we did. It all has some significance.”

Encouraging words

Before every game, when the Patriots are stretching on the field as a team, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia goes to each player — all 46 in uniform — and offers them something: a backslap, hug, handshake, or words of encouragement. When asked about motivating his players, Patricia said, “I don’t think you have to do too much to get them to understand the importance of what we try and do week in and week out. They buy into the system. They buy into our philosophy. I maybe feed off them a little bit more than they feed off of me.” . . . The Patriots promoted receiver Chris Harper from the practice squad to the active roster and released offensive lineman Chris Barker . . . Sunday’s Patriots-Giants game produced the highest local television rating of the season, and the third-highest regular-season rating since 2002. The 46.3 trails only the Dec. 29, 2007, regular-season finale at the Giants (50.1) and the Nov. 2, 2014, home game against Denver (47.2).


Michael Whitmer can be reached at