Report: Patriots fear Derek Rivers suffered a season-ending knee injury

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Report: Patriots fear Derek Rivers suffered a season-ending knee injury

Derek Rivers has a knee injury that looks serious enough that it may cost the rookie his first season in New England. 

According to ESPN, the Patriots fear that Rivers will miss the 2017 season after going down with a left knee injury during Wednesday's joint practice against the Texans. At the time of the injury, Rivers was covering a kickoff and his knee buckled as he attempted to change direction. The severity of the injury was not known initially, but he traveled back to Boston on Wednesday night for further testing.

Rivers had seen time both on the edge and as a stand-up linebacker who floated all over defensive coordinator Matt Patricia's front of late. He could be seen rushing from the outside, dropping into coverage on running backs, or standing over interior offensive linemen during recent practices. He indicated recently that he was beginning to grasp concepts better and think more quickly in the scheme after arriving to the Patriots as a player who worked almost exclusively as a hand-in-the-dirt left defensive end at Youngstown State.

The timing of Rivers' injury further muddies the picture at defensive end for the Patriots, who were already thin at that spot before their top draft pick went down. 

Rob Ninkovich announced his retirement early in training camp. Impressive rookie end Deatrich Wise left last week's preseason game against the Jaguars with a head injury. Linebacker Shea McClellin, who has experience on the edge, has been absent from Patriots practices for almost two weeks.

Left at the position are Trey Flowers, Kony Ealy, Geneo Grissom and undrafted rookie Caleb Kidder. Lawrence Guy has some positional flexibility, giving the Patriots another potential option, as does undrafted rookie defensive lineman Adam Butler.

Linebacker Harvey Langi has seen a heavy workload on the outside with the top Patriots defense in recent training camp practices. He, along with fellow linebacker Kyle Van Noy, have some versatility to play both off the ball and on the end of the line. 

The Patriots signed undrafted rookie Keionta Davis earlier this week, giving them some depth on their defensive front, but he has not yet practiced.

With the Patriots hurting for numbers on the edge, it could mean significant reps for players like Ealy, Langi, Grissom, Butler and Kidder on Saturday night in Houston.

Ealy, who recorded some impressive pass-rush snaps during two Patriots practices at the Greenbrier this week, said that while injuries are never a good thing, the extra reps for the players who are available can't hurt.

"With repetition, you have no choice but to get better," said Ealy, who has had an inconsistent camp with his new team. "That's what I feel like I'm doing . . . Despite any (injury) mishaps, we don't want those, but if definitely puts you in a position to see what you're team is built off of when you have shorter numbers.

"I feel like we did what we needed to do under the circumstances [in joint practices with the Texans], and that gets back to the great coaching that we have and the motivation to push ourselves that we have between each other." 

Game notes: Pats unroll a record air attack vs. Texans

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Game notes: Pats unroll a record air attack vs. Texans

FOXBORO -- Game notes from the Patriots' 36-33 victory over the Texans . . .

-- New England ended Houston’s streak of 31 straight games (including the postseason) without allowing a 300-yard passer by throwing for 378 yards against the Texans. It was the first 300-yard game against Houston since the Jaguars had 331 yards at Jacksonville on Oct. 18, 2015.

-- Tom Brady now has eight career games in which he's thrown a game-winning touchdown pass in the final minut. He now has 52 career victories after facing a fourth-quarter deficit.

-- Brady threw for five touchdowns in a game for the 27th time in team history, the third-most four-touchdown games in NFL history. He also set an NFL record with his 22nd game with four or more touchdowns and no interceptions. It is Brady’s sixth game with five or more touchdowns, tied with Dan Marino for the third-most all-time. It is his sixth game with five or more touchdowns and no interceptions, second to Drew Brees (7).

-- Brady followed a 447-yard effort the week before at New Orleans with a 378-yard effort against Houston. He has now followed a 400-yard game with a 300-yard game six times. (2002, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016).

-- Brady had 447 yards at New Orleans and 378 yards against Houston for 825 yards in the last two weeks. It is the second-most yards in team history in a two-week span. Brady had 940 yards (517 and 423) to start the 2011 season with 517 at Miami on Sept. 12, 2011, followed by 423 yards vs. San Diego on Sept. 18 2011. Brady’s 940 yards ranks second all-time in consecutive games to Phil Simms, who holds the record with 945 yards (432 yards and 513 yards).

-- Brady had his sixth straight game with no interceptions. He now has a streak of 215 straight pass attempts without an interception.

-- Rob Gronkowski scored his 70th career touchdown reception on a five-yard pass from Brady in the first quarter and became the fastest tight end to reach 70 career touchdown receptions, doing so in his 91st career game.

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