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Patriots.com News Blitz - 12/5/2011

Greg A Bedard of the* Boston Globe* writes about the record day that Rob Gronkowski had on Sunday. Gronkowski had two touchdown receptions and one rushing touchdown in the Patriots 31-24 win over the Colts. With the two touchdown receptions Gronkowski tied the single season NFL record for tight end touchdowns in a season with 13 (tied with Vernon Davis and Antonio Gates). Gronkowski was believed to break the record on a swing pass that was later ruled a rush. Gronkowski did set the record for total touchdowns in a season for tight ends with 14 touchdowns in only 12 games, and drew praise from injured Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. "Hey, 14 touchdowns is 14 touchdowns. That's a lot,'' Manning said. "Obviously, for a second-year player - wow, is that it? - he has great potential. There's no question as a guy who appreciates good offensive players, it's quite impressive. Patriots fans are watching something special there.''

Paul Kenyon of the Providence Journal writes about the "baptism by fire" that Nick McDonald had on Sunday. McDonald was activated from the practice squad to the 53-man roster on Saturday and started on Sunday for injured linemen Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell. "I'm grateful for the opportunity," said McDonald. "I want to help this team be successful. Any role they give me, I'm willing to do."

Monique Walker of the Boston Globe writes about the newest Patriots player to make the leap from offense to defense, Matthew Slater. Slater was given the start in his first NFL game on defense and totaled seven tackles and forcing one fumble. "I've known since I've been here just to be ready to do whatever they ask me to do,'' Slater said. "They approached me with it this week. I know I'm a role player on this team and whatever role they need me to do, that's what I'm going to do.''

Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com writes about Niko Koutouvides getting his first defensive snap since 2009 by starting for the Patriots on Sunday. Koutouvides was signed by the Patriots during Week 10 and is considered to be a special teams standout. With the start, Koutouvides totaled six tackles. "I take pride in what the coaches ask me to do. Yes, I made my bones in this league by playing special teams, but if you're here on the 53-man roster, you gotta be prepared to play the position you were brought in to play," said Koutouvides. "You never know when someone goes down. Obviously, what coaches ask me to do, if it's special teams, it is. Or if it's defense -- or if it's both -- I'm here to play my role."

Jeff Howe of NESN.com writes about the Patriots recent use of players at positions that are new to them. In past weeks, Julian Edelman drew praise as a defensive back after being used primarily as a wide receiver and kick returner. Sunday, Matthew Slater filled that same role. Other surprise starts came to Nick McDonald at center and newest Patriot Nate Jones at safety. These surprises come just two weeks after Jeff Tarpinian and Sterling Moore got surprise starts against the New York Jets. "We have that next-man-up attitude," linebacker Jerod Mayo* *said. "Guys have done an excellent job filling in, being attentive at meetings and when they've come out on the field, they've done a great job."

Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com takes his weekly look at the Patriots offensive snaps. Rob Gronkowski was the only skill player to play every snap. Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker both took a majority of the 64 snaps, both playing 53. Rookie Stevan Ridley surprisingly took the most snaps at running back, playing 28.

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