Other than the New England Patriots clinching a first-round bye in the playoffs, the biggest news that came out of Sunday's win over the Miami Dolphins was a second-quarter hip injury to defensive end Rob Ninkovich, who started all 16 games this season.
The condition of Ninkovich, the team's leader in sacks and forced fumbles, still isn't known. But on Monday, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia offered his thoughts on some of the players who could be in the mix to replace Ninkovich if his injury keeps him out of the playoffs:
On veteran defensive end Trevor Scott:
"Trevor has done ... over the course of the season, you take a look at the role he’s had and the opportunities he’s had when he’s been able to deal with them, he’s really tried to develop and come along. Obviously he was available for us and did a good job for us in the first game versus Miami and it just steadily improved throughout the season. Like all the guys on the defense, hopefully throughout the entire season, you get to this point and you’ve done a good enough job to improve yourself week by week and that’s really what we’re trying to do. Trevor has certainly done that and become more familiar with the system and communication and the different things that we’re trying to do. Obviously we have a situation like we had yesterday and guys just have to step in and go and that’s what we prepare for every week."
Scott also talked Monday in the locker room about his roll:
"I just go in and perform every time I'm asked to. That's all I can really control. Every time my number is called, I just try to go in and do my job.
"We have a lot of depth here on defense. That's one thing. If someone goes down, we have the next guy who's going to step in and fill his role. It's definitely huge to have the depth that we have. No matter what happens, we just have to keep moving forward."
On Jermaine Cunningham, who returned after missing four games due to a suspension.
"I think obviously the situation for Jermaine, came back and tried to go out and play hard and certainly was out there doing the things we were asking him to do. I think it’s like any player that has a little time off or is away from the game for a while, you just have to keep working to improve and hopefully build on that performance the following week or whenever it is that you play. So certainly, he’s going to have to come back in and keep working hard to get himself going again, but it was a good job by him of being ready to go when he got back in the building."
On the collaborative pass rush effort (that included three sacks from rookie Justin Francis).
"Coach hit it right on the head as far as the great thing about what we do is obviously a team effort. When you look at the bottom line stats and you see one particular player with high numbers, I don’t really think that tells the whole story. If you take a good look at the game and what actually happened during a particular play, you’ll see that there’s a lot of other factors that contribute to maybe a player making a play on that particular situation. You can single out anybody with stat numbers yesterday but if you take a look at the group effort, it was really what we were looking for. You can certainly see situations where the guys in coverage in those situations did a really excellent job to allow the pass rush time to get to the quarterback and then you can see situations where the pass rush was able to get to the quarterback, which allowed the cover guys to not have to cover as long. So, I really think it was a good, collaborative effort."