News Column

Patriots Lose but Aaron Hernandez Returns

Oct. 15, 2012

Jeff Howe, Boston Herald

Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez wasn't all the way back to his explosive, nimble self yesterday against the Seattle Seahawks, but his presence was certainly a factor nonetheless.

Hernandez returned after missing three games with a badly sprained ankle that he suffered against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 2, and his recovery went well enough during the week that the coaching staff knew well before kickoff he'd be healthy enough to play. He caught six passes for 30 yards and a touchdown in the Patriots' 24-23 loss to the Seahawks.

Hernandez, who refused to speak after the game, showed his athleticism in the second quarter, when he split out to the right on third-and-goal from the 1-yard line. He was manned up on backup safety Jeron Johnson, Tom Brady called a rare fade pattern to the open side of the field, and Hernandez outjumped Johnson for the touchdown that made it 14-10.

Yet, it was clear at times that Hernandez wasn't in top form. He got stuck in the left flat by cornerback Brandon Browner in the third quarter. The shifty tight end tried to shake Browner, but he took Hernandez down with a clean hit in the open field.

Still, Hernandez didn't run through any on-field warmup routines that would have signified he was a gametime decision, so coach Bill Belichick and company likely knew by Saturday's workout that Hernandez was good to go. It also seemed to mean Hernandez didn't practice Friday to avoid a wet field, as well as get as much treatment as possible before the Patriots flew to Seattle.

Hernandez started the game in the backfield, almost as a symbol of his versatility in the offense, and he caught an 8-yard pass in the left flat on the first play of the game. That's where Hernandez lined up on seven of his 68 snaps before the injury, and he spent a decent amount of his reps there yesterday.

Hernandez didn't get a full workload, but the Patriots' willingness to work him back with a manageable amount of reps paid instant dividends for the offense. The Seahawks had to account for him when he was on the field, and the time they didn't pay enough attention to him, he burned them for a touchdown.

Takes licking, keeps ticking

Wes Welker's toughness was on display when he was lit up by the 6-foot-3 Browner in the open field in the second quarter. The wide receiver briefly went to the sideline, but he returned to catch an 11-yard pass on third-and-10.

Welker injured his ankle a couple of plays later and limped badly all the way back to the huddle before catching a 9-yard pass on third-and-10.

"It's just playing football, going out there and just trying to make plays, trying to help the team move the ball down the field," said Welker, who caught 10 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown. "Unfortunately, it just wasn't enough today."

Put in the corner

Cornerback Kyle Arrington was benched in favor of rookie Alfonzo Dennard in the second quarter. Arrington was beat twice by receiver Doug Baldwin on the Seahawks' second series -- once for 50 yards and another time for a 24-yard touchdown -- and that led to Dennard's promotion.

"I've got to be better," said Arrington, who returned in the second half in nickel sets. "I'm going to work my ass off this week. I can only speak for myself and get ready for (the) New York (Jets)."

Slater especially missed

Special teams captain Matthew Slater limped badly out of the locker room after the game. He wasn't on the field during Leon Washington's 25-yard punt return that helped set up the Seahawks' game-winning score. ...

Safety Patrick Chung left the game with a shoulder injury, but did not leave the stadium in a sling.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Source: (c) 2012 the Boston Herald

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