ORCHARD PARK , N.Y. — Eric Lee had a homecoming straight out of a corny movie Sunday in the New England Patriots’ 23-3 win over the Buffalo Bills.
Lee, who was on the Bills’ practice squad up until Nov. 21, when the Patriots snagged him off the scout team, had 1.5 sacks, an interception, a quarterback hit and a batted pass Sunday against the team that wouldn’t add him to their 53-man roster.
Lee now has 2.5 sacks in his first two NFL games. With a role in hand, he’s making an impact.
“It’s awesome,” Lee told reporters. “It’s something I’ve been telling myself all year that I want to contribute. I feel like I’m feeling comfortable and learning and being able to prepare and execute and stuff like that. I feel like those are the things that I’m in the NFL to do, so when it comes to having a role, that’s all I ever wanted. So, to really embrace that role and that passion for the game and everything like that, all that plays a part into everything that’s happened so far.”
Lee played so much Sunday because defensive end Trey Flowers was inactive with a rib injury, and linebacker Kyle Van Noy took on a limited role with a calf ailment. Lee’s also made a strong impression on his coaches and teammates, however, giving them faith he could contribute.
“He’s worked really hard,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said Sunday. “From the first day he got here, he came early, stayed late, asked a lot of good questions. He’s smart. He picks things up well. I think that his time in Houston was beneficial for him, again. I think a lot of the techniques we teach are similar to what Mike (Vrabel) and the Texans teach.
” … He’s a sharp kid. He works hard and he’s got good skills. He’s long, and he’s got good power, and he can run.”
Patriots safety and defensive captain Duron Harmon specifically singled out Lee when asked how Patriots players are able to step up in place of injured starters.
“He did all the right things,” Harmon said. “He came in here, you could tell Eric wanted to learn. He, as soon as he got here, he’s asking questions, learning the playbook. And for him to be able to go out there after a week and be able to start on our defense, I mean, none of our calls changed. He literally just studied the playbook and really came in and played well and made plays. It’s just learning, trying hard, trying to do the best that you can. Just doing your job, and when you do your job like that, plays are going to come. Plays are definitely going to come.”
Lee, being the smart player he is, gave plenty of credit to the Patriots’ coaching staff for his transition from Buffalo to New England.
“All the coaches, Coach (Brendan) Daly to Coach (Matt Patricia) and Joe Judge, everybody’s just like gotten me into the meeting room, got me around the right people to ask questions,” Lee said. “Just trying to facilitate my transition as fast as possible. Just that extra time, embracing the role, that was something I took to heart. It was just — being able to contribute isn’t enough. It’s about what you do prior. Just taking advantage of the opportunity.”