Upon Further Review: New England Week 4

September, 30, 2013
9/30/13
3:00
PM ET
A review of four hot issues following the New England Patriots' 30-23 victory over the Atlanta Falcons:

Life without Big Vince: With news that defensive tackle Vince Wilfork has a torn right Achilles, the Patriots now face life without one of their top players. How will they proceed? Wilfork’s value to the team, and the Patriots’ options to replace him, have been dissected and analyzed. Patriots coach Bill Belichick also shared some thoughts on rookies Joe Vellano and Chris Jones, who bump up the depth chart behind starter Tommy Kelly. The Patriots have had experience dealing with big injuries in the past, and this is one of the more significant ones based on Wilfork’s on-field and leadership contributions.

[+] EnlargeDanny Amendola
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliThe Patriots hope Danny Amendola is able to return to action this week.
Other injuries to monitor: Alfonzo Dennard, elevated to the starting cornerback spot opposite Aqib Talib in the base defense, hobbled off late in the game and didn’t finish. Also, rookie receiver Aaron Dobson sustained a neck injury in the second half and never returned. Dobson has been working as the No. 3 receiver.

Gronkowski and Amendola close to returns? Tight end Rob Gronkowski and receiver Danny Amendola didn’t make the trip to Atlanta and now the focus turns to their availability for Sunday’s game in Cincinnati. Gronkowski’s murky status was detailed within the context of those in his inner “circle” having some reservations about him playing. Meanwhile, Amendola, we believe, has a good chance of making his return Sunday.

Defense answers the challenge: One of the big questions facing the Patriots was if the performance of the defense through the first three weeks was more a result of playing weak competition. Few, if any, would put quarterback Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ explosive attack in that category. Thus, the general perception of the Patriots’ defense seems to be shifting a bit. This is a solid unit, sparked by the standout play of Talib.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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