FOXBORO, Mass. — Some notes and nuggets from Tuesday’s New England Patriots media availability at Gillette Stadium.
— Kyle Van Noy remained limited in practice, but the linebacker said afterward he feels “great” ahead of Saturday’s divisional-round playoff matchup with the Tennessee Titans.
Van Noy is one of the Patriots’ most important defensive players, but he hardly saw the field during the tail end of the regular season as he recovered from a calf injury suffered in Week 11. He was inactive for three games and played sparingly in two others, logging just 29 total snaps in wins over the Buffalo Bills in Week 12 and New York Jets in Week 17.
— Van Noy and the rest of the Patriots’ defense are preparing to face Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, who has struggled as a passer this season but possesses dynamic rushing and scrambling ability.
“The good thing is it’s not our first time (defending a mobile QB),” cornerback Eric Rowe said. “During the whole season, we were seeing it. We saw Cam (Newton), (Deshaun) Watson, (Tyrod) Taylor twice. So it’s not our first time, but obviously, it just sucks because it’s another thing to add on your plate. You can have great coverage, but now we have to worry about him extending plays, especially on third down.”
Mariota converted all five of the Titans’ third downs during the second half of their wild-card round win over the Kansas City Chiefs, three via pass and two on quarterback runs. Tennessee scored three second-half touchdowns to erase an 18-point third-quarter deficit and win 22-21.
“Mariota did a great job in the Chiefs game,” Rowe said. “That’s what killed them — extending the play on third downs and running the ball.”
Mariota also sealed the win with a key block on a Derrick Henry rush. That the rest of the Titans’ offense rushed to mob their QB after that play was telling to Van Noy.
“You could see after he made that block at the end of the (Chiefs) game how much his teammates love him,” the Patriots linebacker said. “So we respect that and respect the leader that he is.”
— Malcolm Mitchell was absent during the portion of Tuesday’s practice that was open to the media. That, coupled with Bill Belichick’s lukewarm comments about the young wide receiver’s progress, drove speculation that Mitchell, who has spent the entire season on injured reserve, likely would not play Saturday.
It is worth noting, though, that a Patriots staffer was seen carrying a Mitchell game jersey through the locker room and into the equipment room Tuesday afternoon. And since Mitchell is not on the Patriots’ 53-man roster, the team is not required to announce why or even if he missed practice.
*Insert eyes emoji here*
Thumbnail photo via Zack Cox/NESN.com
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