DENVER — The New England Patriots and their fans were clearly divided on one hot topic this season: injuries.
There’s nothing the Patriots ever want to talk about less than injuries, yet their fans were at times obsessed with them. Ailments became the No. 1 justification for Patriots fans when their team was faltering. It was fair, too. The Patriots didn’t just suffer a rash of injuries, it was a straight-up contagious infection.
The Patriots placed 21 players on reserve lists this season. They ranged from starters to training camp bodies, first-round picks to undrafted free agents and everything in between.
Let’s take a look at the full list:
RB Dion Lewis
RB LeGarrette Blount
RB Tyler Gaffney
FB James Develin
WR Aaron Dobson
WR Brian Tyms
WR Brandon Gibson
WR Josh Boyce
TE A.J. Derby
OT Nate Solder
OL Ryan Wendell
OL Kevin Hughes
DE Trey Flowers
DE Rufus Johnson
DT Dominique Easley
DT Chris Jones
LB Jerod Mayo
LB Dane Fletcher
LB Eric Martin
CB Tarell Brown
CB Darryl Roberts
Lewis, Blount, Develin, Dobson, Tyms, Boyce, Solder, Wendell, Easley, Jones, Mayo, Fletcher and Brown all have started games during their Patriots careers. Many of those players would have made an impact in the Patriots loss in the AFC Championship Game to the Denver Broncos on Sunday, but none greater than Lewis and Solder.
The Patriots lost the ability to run the ball when Lewis tore his ACL, and Solder would have improved the Patriots’ offensive line twofold. He would have been better than Sebastian Vollmer on the left side of the line, and Vollmer would have been an improvement over Marcus Cannon on the right side. The Patriots ran for just 2.6 yards per carry, and quarterback Tom Brady was hit 20 times by Broncos pass rushers. Blount also would have been an improvement over Brandon Bolden, James White and Steven Jackson as a between-the-tackles rusher.
The Patriots suffered no major injuries against the Broncos, but clearly, the damage already had been done this season.
That list of injuries also doesn’t include players who lost a chunk of the season to more minor injuries. It is easier to name the players who suited up for all 18 games this season (Brady, Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Logan Ryan, Malcolm Butler, Rob Ninkovich, Malcom Brown, Alan Branch, Duron Harmon and Matthew Slater) than those who did not, but it’s at least worth mentioning that ailments to wide receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, tight end Rob Gronkowski, linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower, safeties Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty and defensive end Chandler Jones contributed to losses. Let’s also not look past injuries Brady, Ninkovich and Slater fought and played through.
The good news: The Patriots should stay healthier next season. It’s almost unheard of to suffer such terrible luck with injuries, and most of the Patriots’ 2015 squad is due to return in 2016.
The Patriots had the talent to win the Super Bowl this season, good fortune just wasn’t quite on their side. Perhaps it will be next year with a longer offseason to recover from various ailments.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images