Linebacker Jerod Mayo is one of the Patriots' two or three most indispensible players, and the left knee injury he suffered Sunday against the Raiders will be a huge blow to the team's struggling defense.
Mayo's leadership in the locker room and on the field makes him invaluable to New England, and his football instincts do wonders for his side of the ball. He was the NFL's greatest tackler in 2010, and he led the Patriots with 25 stops through three weeks of the 2011 season.
It's unclear how much time Mayo will miss. The standard protocol typically calls for an injured player to undergo an X-ray during or immediately after the game, and they'll take an MRI the next day for further evaluation. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick didn't give an update on Mayo's status Sunday, but he said he was hoping to know more early this week.
The injury was strange, too. Mayo was working off a block from left guard Stefan Wisniewski in the second quarter, and Mayo never took any contact to his left knee. After he disengaged, he hobbled a little bit, looked toward his knee and then limped with a little more exaggeration before dropping to the turf. He was helped to the sideline by two trainers and was carted into the locker room at halftime and never returned to the bench.
Mayo injured his right knee in the 2009 season opener and missed three games, though he was never the same player for the rest of the season. Obviously, the injuries are unrelated, but this one won't be an easy one for the Patriots to bear.
The Raiders ran the ball better once Mayo was gone, and there's no doubt the Jets will attack with their ground game next week. Linebacker Brandon Spikes has always been very good against the run, and he'll need Gary Guyton or Dane Fletcher to step up alongside him for the time being.
The Patriots rebounded Sunday with a tough victory, but they'll face a more important test as they attempt to gloss over the defense that might not have its leader for some time.