It's been said that necessity is the mother of invention.
Patriots running back coach Ivan Fears put his own spin on the popular axiom Wednesday.
"Creativity comes out of need."
Fears was referring to Monday night in Buffalo, when wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson lined up 10 times as a traditional running back. He gained 38 yards, 22 of which came on one big play. Not a bad effort for someone unaccustomed to playing the position.
Facing Buffalo with just two healthy running backs – co-captain James White and Kenjon Barner – Patterson wound up playing an unusual role, but one he embraced wholeheartedly, as Patterson told reporters after the game.
"I hope I get 25 carries next week," he smiled in the postgame locker room at New Era Field.
Back in Foxborough Wednesday, Fears explained the decision to move Patterson, at least temporarily.
"We needed help," the longtime assistant coach admitted. "And the answers were not too many. Not too many choices. And there was one looking right at us, and he was willing. Oh, yeah, very receptive. He was very happy. He really was. He was like, 'Hey, I can do that.' Really?! Well, let's see. We knew C.P. was great with the ball in his hands, so, why not give it to him."
Patterson has carried the football a number of times already this year, but mostly on end-arounds from the receiver position. He did have one previous carry from the backfield, but against the Bills, it was more of a full-time job.
Fears maintained that it wasn't too difficult to get Patterson up to speed on his responsibilities as a ball carrier last week.
"Just hand him the ball. There's no process. Hand him the ball. You've got guys who make plays, you've got to find a way to get them the ball. Tell him how we're going to block it, and, 'Hey, go get it.'
"The guy's been running kickoff returns forever. I mean, you know he can see. He's got awful good vision, and he can run off of what he sees. That's what you want him to do. Don't try to make it too complicated. You give a good athlete the ball and let him make a play for you."
While rookie running back Sony Michel continues to nurse a bad knee and veteran Rex Burkhead remains on injured reserve, New England's only other true ball carrier is second-year practice squad player Kenneth Farrow. Might, then, we see Patterson toting the football more this season? Head coach Bill Belichick wouldn't rule out the idea when asked about it Wednesday, nor would Fears.
"We take one week at a time and just try to find a way to win," he added. "Whatever we can do – you know, you've got injuries, all kinds of stuff you have to deal with – gotta use what you've got. He's got some experience back there carrying the ball, so, it's not like he's totally new at it.
"Hey, we're going to play. Everybody's got to step up, do more, do as much as we have to to win. The process doesn't change. Use what you have and try to fit the pieces together to find a way to get 80, 90 plays for that game. And you just play THAT game. Don't make it any more than that. We play that game, and we're going to play THIS game whichever way we can with whatever we have to find a way to win."
Rowe to IR
Tuesday's NFL transaction wire revealed that New England placed cornerback Eric Rowe on injured reserve. He's been struggling with a groin injury all season.
The oft-injured fourth-year veteran is in his third season with New England after being acquired in a trade with Philadelphia just before the 2016 regular season. Since then, he's appeared in only 21 regular season contests for the Patriots as a result of various ailments.
Rowe's absence for the remainder of this regular season could end up working out for rookie cornerback Duke Dawson, a 2018 second-round draft pick. On IR since Week 1 with a hamstring issue, Dawson began practicing again last week and could be promoted to the 53-man roster next week.
If Dawson returns to the active roster and the Patriots choose not to activate one other player from injured reserve this season, Rowe could be eligible to play again this postseason. He is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this coming offseason.
Having arrived back in Foxborough from Buffalo less than 36 hours earlier, the Patriots decided to practice with a walkthrough on Wednesday. Normally, most players, even the injured ones, show up to observe such sessions, but a handful of Patriots were held out of action today.
Of note, right guard Shaq Mason, who injured a calf against Buffalo and didn't finish the game, was not on the field today. Nor were wide receiver Julian Edelman and defensive end Deatrich Wise, both of whom are dealing with illnesses.