The Patriots got a huge stop against the Buffalo Bills last Monday night with Adrian Phillips making a third-down pass breakup that set the stage for the final fourth-down play of the game. But after celebrating the big stop, Phillips was suddenly on the ground being tended to by trainers, looking as though he had somehow sustained a serious injury.
It cast a shadow of uncertainty coming out of the win, as Phillips has been one of the key defensive playmakers since his arrival last season.
"Well, at the time I was like, 'oh crap', I didn't want to get hurt or anything like that," recalled Phillips of his reaction, appearing during his Tuesday media availability. "You don't know how severe the injury is or whatever it may be. Just taking it day by day, working with the training staff and going from there."
It's a good sign that Phillips not only was available to the media but was also at practice, though listed as limited on the Injury Report. The bye week came at a good time for him and his teammates, though it's as late as a bye has ever come.
"The bye week took a long time to get here but it came right on time," said Phillips. "Being able to let our bodies heal up and get away just for a little bit for this last little push that we have going on... We've been grinding hard for so long, with the beginning of the season not really going how we wanted to and then fighting each and every week just to make sure that we put ourselves in the best position and being able to end it on Monday night with a win and come into the bye week... I think it was very much needed."
After the low-scoring, windswept drama in Buffalo, the Patriots now turn the page to the windless-but-loud conditions of Indianapolis. Just like in the past, the Colts feature one of the best offenses in the league and a fast, ball-hawking defense.
"That's a legit offense right there," said Phillips of the Colts, which prominently features running back Jonathan Taylor, the league's leader in yards-from-scrimmage. "Taylor's a home run hitter, he's a guy that's not afraid of contact. You can see as the game keeps going he just gets more physical and if people don't want to hit when it comes to the third or fourth quarter, especially when they have the lead, especially when he's in his zone and if he smells a fish, he's going to attack you."
A big key? Getting off to a good start and not letting the Colts and Taylor run away after an early lead.
"That first quarter kind of dictates what the game is going to be," said Phillips. "You always want to start fast and everybody talks about starting fast, well this is like the best team at starting fast. When we get out there we have to make sure that we're ready for whatever they throw at us, because they throw a lot of stuff at teams in the first quarter and that's how they get up and games."
Win streaks aside, the post-bye Patriots were looking to just keep doing what had gotten them out of their 2-4 start.
"Just do what we do," said Phillips of the team's final four-game focus. "Know when we go out there that we prepared to the best of our abilities and just play ball. It's football."
Practice & Injury Report
As far as December practices go, the Patriots' session on Tuesday was on the mild side as the team began their early preparations for their Saturday game in Indy. It was good news on the injury front, as Damien Harris and Adrian Phillips were present and Kyle Dugger returned from the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Both Harris and Phillips were limited, along with seven other Patriots.
The only missing faces from stretching and the first positional period were J.J. Taylor, Yodny Cajuste (illness) and practice squadder Alex Redmond. Over the weekend the team did move Dalton Keene, currently on season-ending IR, to the COVID list, but thus far the team has avoided the flare-ups that are happening around the league.
The team also activated rookie safety Joshuah Bledsoe to the active roster from NFI, releasing Calvin Munson to accommodate the move. Bledsoe offers some added safety depth behind the Patriots' top trio. It's clear how valuable the position is and even if Bledsoe doesn't see any game action, he'll continue to practice for the rest of the season and could have an early jump on summer 2022.
Mac Jones was a late addition to the Injury Report with a left thumb injury.
Jak goes for 1,000
Robert Kraft made a surprise appearance at Jakob Johnson's media availability, as Johnson recently became the third player from the International Program to surpass 1,000 snaps in the league. Kraft wasn't just there to congratulate Johnson on the snaps played or wish him a Happy Birthday but to also tease an announcement coming on Wednesday that could tie into Jak's home country, Germany. Stay tuned to Patriots.com for more on that one...