Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Kevin Faulk's injury a Wes Welkerish jolt
To get an idea of how much Kevin Faulk means to the New England Patriots' offense, think about how unsettled Tom Brady looked without Wes Welker in the playoffs last year.
Fortunately for the Patriots, they'll have better time to adjust. We're not headed into the postseason, and the Buffalo Bills aren't the Baltimore Ravens.
But plucking Faulk from the lineup can be compared to the sudden loss of Welker in last year's regular-season finale. Welker tore knee ligaments and wasn't available when the befuddled Patriots got destroyed by the Ravens in the first round of the playoffs.
On Wednesday, the Patriots placed Faulk on season-ending inured reserve. He tore his right anterior cruciate ligament in Sunday's loss to the New York Jets.
"They're both critical players to our offense," Brady said on a conference call with Bills reporters to preview Sunday's game in Gillette Stadium. "They're guys that I've been around and have a lot of trust in.
"You look to throw the ball to the guys you really trust, who you know are going to be in the right place and the right time and compete for the ball. That's why those guys end up making a lot of plays because they get the opportunities.
"We've got to try to find other ways."
ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss tracks every Patriots play and noted no other Patriots running back has been on the field more than Faulk in each of the past four seasons. He's trusted to come up with the big catch, break a slick run or pick up a blitz.
"There's nobody you can put in there and expect to be like Kevin," Brady said. "Kevin is a very rare player, and it's not only a unique skill set, but his will, determination and his performance under pressure was unmatched.
"That's the big difference between Kevin and a lot of other guys. When it really meant something, Kevin was at his best. Those guys are hard to find."
Patriots coach Bill Belichick made reference to Brady's knee injury in the 2008 season opener when explaining how the team has to figure out how to overcome Faulk's absence. Faulk is that integral to the offensive strategy.
"We weren't the same team, but we found a different way than the way we had won the year before," Belichick said of going 11-5 with Matt Cassel at quarterback. "I don't think we're going to find one player to be a carbon copy of Kevin Faulk. I don't think that exists. I don't think that's really realistic. As a team, we just have to find ways to be efficient, be productive, move the ball, and score points even if he's not in there. It will be a challenge, but that's what we need to do."