Before going down with a season-ending quadriceps injury against the Broncos on Sunday, defensive end Andre Carter was leading the New England Patriots in sacks with 10 and quarterback hits with 22. The loss of the team's top pass rusher and most consistent defender could be crippling to a defense that has struggled all season.
Anderson, a former fifth-round pick of the Chicago Bears who was acquired by the Patriots in the offseason as a free agent, more than filled in at end and as a stand-up outside linebacker when Carter went down in the first quarter, recording two sacks of Tim Tebow, including one where Anderson forced a fumble and recovered it. It led to a touchdown, putting the Patriots ahead, 24-16.
Not one single player is going to replace Carter, but Anderson, who is second on the Patriots with nine sacks and quarterback hits with 11, is going to likely do the heavy lifting with Carter sidelined. Problem is, Carter rarely came off the field, playing almost 80 percent of his team's defensive snaps this season before the injury. Anderson has yet to prove he can defend the run consistently and become a three-down player.
Partly because of how proficient Carter was at defensive end, the Patriots switched this year to primarily a 4-3 defense. But that could soon change with him out of the lineup, putting pressure on Anderson and others to step up, no matter the defensive alignment.
"I think you can get into a lot of technical aspects of defense and strategy and all that, but we played plenty of four-man line, we played plenty of three-man line," coach Bill Belichick said Monday. "We used them both at different times for different reasons. In the end, it comes back to the players -- beating blocks, making tackles, hitting the quarterback, covering the receivers."