BOSTON (CBS) -- As Jerod Mayo was carted off the field on Sunday, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick knew his defense was losing a key contributor.
Mayo suffered a right knee injury during New England's 37-22 win over the Bills, and is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday. Not only does Mayo lead the team with 53 tackles this season, but he's also the leader of the New England linebackers and quarterback of the defense.
When asked how his team can overcome a prolonged absence by Mayo, Belichick said responsibilities won't fall on just one player.
"You have to get big contributions from other guys -- some at the linebacker position, some at other positions as well -- see how it all comes together. Keep our fingers crossed for him. See exactly what his situation is, but we have to be ready to move on without him," Belichick said on his Monday morning conference call. "We will have to put multiple groups, multiple players to do some things that he did. I don't think there's one player that's going to run this team and do all that Jerod did. We were lucky to have him, let alone a guy who can do all that too. It will come from a combination of guys somehow."
It doesn't help that the Patriots have just three days to get ready for Thursday night's matchup with the New York Jets. When Mayo went down in Week 6 last season with a torn pectoral muscle, Dont'a Hightower originally took over the play-calling duties on defense, though that role shifted at times over the final 10 weeks of the season.
Hightower has missed the last two weeks with a knee injury, but was a game-time decision on Sunday. With Mayo now out for the foreseeable future, Hightower's return could be fast-tracked given New England's lack of depth at linebacker.
More pressure will now fall on Jamie Collins, who has had some ups downs in the early goings of his sophomore season in the NFL. Belichick also mentioned undrafted rookie Deontea Skinner on Monday, who filled in Sunday when Mayo went down and had a sack of Bills' quarterback Kyle Orton.
"[Skinner] has certainly done some positive things, and if he can keep sustaining a hard work ethic and stay on the field every day and keep getting better, I think he will have a chance to have a decent career and certainly be able to continue to help us," said Belichick.
Skinner, a rookie free agent out of Mississippi State, was signed from the practice squad in mid-September.
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