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Patriots’ Dominique Easley, LeGarrette Blount out for season

Dominique Easley was attended to after he was injured Sunday night.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Two more Patriots are headed to the injured reserve list, which is collecting players seemingly every week this season.

For the second consecutive year, Dominique Easley will end the season on IR, after suffering a thigh injury during Sunday night's 27-6 win over the Texans in Houston.

LeGarrette Blount, the Patriots' leading rusher, is joining him on IR, according to a league source. Blount suffered a hip injury in Sunday's game.

Easley's move was announced by the team Tuesday. He and Blount will be the 13th and 14th players the Patriots have sent to IR this season, a group that includes left tackle Nate Solder, running back Dion Lewis, and fullback James Develin.


Late Sunday night, asked by the Globe how he was feeling as he was walking out of the locker room after the win, Easley said, "Feeling fine. It's all good."

Evidently not. By being placed on IR, Easley will miss the final three games of the regular season, plus any postseason games.

Easley, a first-round draft pick in 2014 (29th overall), came to the Patriots off two knee surgeries while at the University of Florida, including one that ended his senior season. As a Patriots' rookie, Easley played in 11 games before being placed on IR on Dec. 17, 2014.

He played in 11 games this season, too, and had his second sack of the year Sunday before getting hurt. After he left the field under his own power, Easley was spotted riding a stationary bike on the Patriots' sideline, but did not return to the game. He finished the season with 15 tackles.

Blount has 703 rushing yards on 165 carries (4.3-yard average), and has scored seven touchdowns, including one receiving score. Blount had a team-high 53 yards against the Texans before leaving with the injury in the second quarter.


Perhaps because of the severity of Blount's injury, the Patriots added depth at running back Tuesday, signing Montee Ball to the practice squad. Ball, released by the Broncos on Sept. 6, was a second-round draft pick in 2013, and rushed for 559 yards and four touchdowns for Denver as a rookie.

Ball was a record-setting tailback at Wisconsin, where he was a teammate of Patriots running back James White.

"It's good to have him around. He was a roommate of mine in college, so we're pretty good friends," White said. "He's a downhill runner, he's going to run hard, he runs physical."

White and Brandon Bolden are the only running backs on the active roster. Ball and Trey Williams are on the practice squad.

In addition to Ball, the Patriots made three other practice squad moves, signing wide receiver DeAndre Carter and releasing wide receiver Austin Hill and defensive lineman Kelcy Quarles.

First goal met

The first team goal for the Patriots is always winning the division, something they clinched when Miami lost Monday night's game to the Giants. Even though the Patriots are three games up on the Jets (and still have to play them on the road), the tiebreakers that would result from both teams finishing the season 11-5 favored the Patriots.

So they've won the AFC East, for the seventh straight season.

"It's nice to have it, but at the end of the day it's not our end goal," said defensive lineman Alan Branch. "We'll put it in our pocket, but it's onto the Titans for us."


Hats and T-shirts commemorating the division title were distributed to players, who were also informed of the achievement Tuesday by coach Bill Belichick.

Stork emerges

The Patriots' player who went the longest without missing a single snap on offense was undrafted rookie center David Andrews.

That streak ended with the Nov. 23 game against Buffalo; since then, Bryan Stork, who began the season on the short-term injured reserve list, has assumed the position and taken over the duties at center. Andrews, who suited up but did not play against either Denver or Philadelphia, came into the game in the final minutes of Sunday night's win.

So, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was asked Tuesday, why has Stork been getting the nod over Andrews?

"Bryan's a little bit more experienced, certainly, at this point, having played quite a bit last year," McDaniels said. "I think both guys have a lot of strengths to them. Both guys certainly work hard to try to improve some of the things that maybe they don't do as well as they'd like to. But they bring great work ethic to our offense, there's a presence inside, a toughness that they both have.

"I think there's a consistent competition there. We encourage that at all positions, and those guys definitely have embraced that."

Andrews played every snap of the first nine games, with Stork working his way into the lineup after sitting out the first seven because of a concussion and a neck injury, which landed him on injured reserve with a designation to return. Due to the injuries suffered along the offensive line, Stork actually started at right tackle against the Giants, then took over for Andrews at center early in the Bills' game. He's started the past three games at center, playing all but six of the snaps, which Andrews picked up at the end of Sunday's game when Stork left because of an equipment issue.


"We're always trying to get the right group out there," McDaniels said. "They're different, in terms of the type of player they are.

"They're both smart, dependable, and tough. They do a lot of different things to try to set the table for the rest of our lineup and get everyone going in the right direction."

Only Andrews, though, can lay claim to this stat nugget: When he's gotten into the game, the Patriots are 11-0. When he hasn't, they're 0-2.

Globe correspondent Tim Healey contributed to this report. Michael Whitmer can be reached at mwhitmer@globe.com.