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Next men up get the job done for Patriots

Two days ago, Joey Iosefa was on the Patriots practice squad.

Eight weeks ago, he wasn't even with an NFL team.

But in his NFL debut, he led New England in rushing — yards and carries — in a 33-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

He didn't do anything flashy to gain his gritty 51 yards on 14 carries — except bowl over cornerback Coty Sensabaugh on one run — but got plenty of praise from coach Bill Belichick after stepping in for LeGarrette Blount, who is out for the rest of the season with a hip injury.


"Obviously, unfortunately, he got an opportunity because of some of the injuries that we've had, but he can't control that. All he did was work hard and I thought he gave a solid account of himself today," Belichick said. "It wasn't perfect, but he did what we asked him to do today and he made some tough yards."

Iosefa, who was a seventh-round draft pick by Tampa Bay this year, was cut by the Bucs before the regular season started and came to New England in Week 7. Belichick said his consistency in practice led to his promotion to the active roster.

"He's a grinder. A hard-working kid. I think he's gotten in a lot better shape since he's been here, dropped a little weight," Belichick said. "Worked hard, obviously learning a new system, wasn't here in training camp. Put in a lot of extra time. Gotten a lot of snaps on the practice field and kind of earned his way to get a chance out there today based on hard work and consistent play in practice and the opportunities that he's had for us. It's a real credit to him. He earned that."


While Iosefa filled in for Blount, James White did his best Dion Lewis impression with his second notable performance in the passing game, including a shifty 30-yard touchdown on a screen pass.

He led the Patriots in receptions (7) and was second in yards (71) behind Brandon LaFell (88). He also had a 70-yard catch-and-run that was called back because Keshawn Martin was flagged for offensive pass interference.

Quarterback Tom Brady said White has gained the offense's trust.

"He's been really productive in that role," Brady said. "It's just been kind of a really great tribute to his hard work and commitment. He was here last year, learned a lot, and then got his opportunity this year when Dion went out and he's just done a great job with it."

Brady said he was impressed by White's 30-yard touchdown on Sunday, his third score of the season.

"On that touchdown run on the screen, I mean, from what I saw, there wasn't much there and then he was so patient to see things open up and took advantage when the hole finally did open, he accelerated through there and got in the end zone," he said.

With the Patriots' two feature backs out for the remainder of the season, Belichick said second- and third-string backs, including Brandon Bolden (12 touches, 54 total yards), must continue to step up.

"All of them helped us. Joey and Brandon and James. That's what we need," he said. "Going to need guys to do different things. Same thing with the receivers. Same things with the tight ends. We have confidence in all of those guys. Sometimes it's different combinations or different roles, but all of them work hard. The backs, they gave us some good plays today."


Tight end Rob Gronkowski said it was good to see players who labor in practice get rewarded with qualitying playing time in a game.

"Whenever a guy comes in, they just come in and play hard," he said. "Everyone works hard at practice no matter who it is so that when they get called into the game they're ready to play, they know the situation, and they're ready to play hard."

With the injury bug worming its way through New England's roster, other second-string players made good use of their playing time against the Titans. Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks had a sack and a fumble recovery for a touchdown; tight end Michael Williams, who is mostly used in the blocking game, caught a pass for 7 yards; and receiver Keshawn Martin returned a kickoff 75 yards to set up a field goal.

"Had a lot of guys step up and play, fill roles today that maybe that hadn't done as much of, or hadn't done any of, in the past. That was good too," Belichick said. "That's what you need from a team. It's a long season. We need a lot of different guys to contribute."

Brady discusses Patriots win over Titans

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said he was “glad to get the win” at Sunday’s game. The Patriots defeated the Titans 33-16 for their 12th win of the season.

Follow Rachel G. Bowers on Twitter @RachelGBowers.