American Football

Patriots vs. Bengals injury analysis: New England’s tight end group takes a hit in Week 16


Cincinnati Bengals v New England Patriots
Photo by Nick Grace/Getty Images

Related: Instant analysis from Patriots’ 22-18 loss to Bengals

The New England Patriots lost their second game in a row on Saturday, falling 22-18 to the Cincinnati Bengals. To make matters worse, they saw several of their players go down with injuries.

Let’s take a look at who was either announced as injured during the contest or caught our eye after re-watching the game.

Injury analysis

S Brenden Schooler: The Patriots’ special teams standout suffered a shoulder injury on the game’s opening kickoff. The first player to contact, but not take down, Bengals return man Trayveon Williams, Schooler departed for the locker room after the play. He was announced as questionable to return, but did come back after missing only a handful of kicking game snaps. In total, the rookie ended up playing 20 of 25 snaps in the game’s third phase — tied for the fourth highest such number on the team.

TE Hunter Henry: The Patriots’ first third down of the game was a disaster. Not only was quarterback Mac Jones sacked to force a punt, the team’s two tight ends also collided down the field: while Jonnu Smith was able to continue to play, Hunter Henry had to leave the game with a knee injury. He did not return and was officially ruled out at the half.

RB Rhamondre Stevenson: The first play of the third quarter saw New England’s lead running back, Rhamondre Stevenson, fumble the ball out of bounds. After the play, he showed a slight limp but was able to continue. Stevenson would finish the game with 51 out of 56 possible snaps.

LB Matthew Judon: Judon was in the spotlight twice on Saturday. The first came on Marcus Jones’ 69-yard interception return touchdown, when the Pro Bowl linebacker was shaken up after getting tripped up from behind. In the fourth quarter, he appeared to get banged up again and was seen departing for the locker room. However, he later clarified that he just had to use the bathroom. All in all, Judon ended up playing a season-high 68 defensive snaps.

TE Jonnu Smith: The Patriots lost another tight end in the early fourth quarter. Jonnu Smith absorbed two tackles on the same incomplete pass in his direction, and had to leave the game with a head injury. He was never officially ruled out but was unable to return to the contest.

CB Marcus Jones: Marcus Jones’ second big play of the day came at a minor cost: the standout rookie was slow to get up after recovering a fourth-quarter fumble. However, he later clarified that he only got his wind knocked out of him.

QB Mac Jones: The Patriots’ quarterback was spotted with an ice pack on his right throwing shoulder after playing all 56 offensive snaps against the Bengals. However, he noted in his postgame press conference that that was standard procedure and no reason for concern.

What this means for the Patriots

While a good chunk of the Patriots’ injuries against the Bengals do not appear to be serious, those suffered by tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith are worth keeping an eye on. While New England has yet to figure out how to get the most out of the two high-prized players, losing either or both of them would be a blow to an offense in need of as many talented players as it can get.

On Saturday, the team turned to practice squad elevatee Scotty Washington and backup offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste to fill the voids created by their departures. Washington played a more traditional role and unintentionally tipped the ball back to Jakobi Meyers on a 48-yard touchdown in the third quarter, while Cajuste served as an extra blocker when on the field.

The Patriots will release their first injury report of the week on Wednesday afternoon. They will host the Miami Dolphins in a true must-win game on Sunday, Jan. 1, at 1 p.m. ET.

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