It's official. Patriots veteran running back Kevin Faulk was placed on the injured reserve yesterday, which will end his 12th season in New England.
What does this mean for the Pats?
One key difference in a Faulk-less Patriots may be their use of the shotgun formation, according to ESPNBoston.com. Of the 123 snaps this season, 56 of them were out of the shotgun--Faulk played 41 of those 56 snaps.
Certainly coach Belichick sees what New England will be missing in the 12-year veteran. And he's already devising ways to adjust his offense.
"I don't think you're going to find any one player to be a duplicate of Kevin Faulk," Belichick said in yesterday's press conference. "When we lost Tom [Brady] in the beginning of the '08 season, Matt [Cassel] came in and we won 11 games. We weren't the same team, but we found a different way to win than the way we had won before or the following year. I don't think we're going to find one player to be carbon copy of Kevin Faulk. I don't think that exists and I don't think that's really realistic. As a team, we just have to find ways to be efficient, be productive, move the ball, score points, even though he's not in there. It will be a challenge, but that's what we need to do."
ESPNBoston.com offers some statistical evidence on the decline of Patriots' second-half performance. From 2002 to 2008 (the good old dynasty days), the Patriots were 66-1 when leading at the half--first in the NFL with an 98.5 win percentage. Last season, however, the Patriots were 9-5 with first-half leads. Their winning percentage dropped by roughly a third and ranked 24th in the NFL. And last week, in the 2010-11 season, looked no different.
The ESPN story ultimately places blame on the Patriots' three-time champion QB Tom Brady. The Boston Herald picks apart Brady's brain in last week's 28-14 loss to the Jets (the Patriots were ahead 14-10 at the half), which all too closely resembled a little bit of history repeating.
Nevertheless, Brady looks ahead to what matters most right now: beating the Bills.
"Really, whatever happened in the past, it doesn't have much bearing on what's going to happen this week because [the Bills] have different coaches, they have a different scheme," Brady said in his press conference yesterday. "We've really never played this defensive coordinator before. So, I think as an offense, we're trying to - as we always do - figure out what they're doing and what they do well. Which, they do quite a few things well. They really played Miami really tough. The Green Bay game was really close until midway through the third quarter when Green Bay made some pretty spectacular plays. We expect a tough game as always. Hopefully we come out ahead."