Patriots

Bedard: Michael Bennett plays 11 snaps, 3 before garbage time – Is this the end?

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FOXBOROUGH — It was another banner night for the NFL's best defense on Thursday night in the Patriots 35-14 victory over the Giants.

Minus the 64-yard touchdown to Golden Tate, the Patriots allowed Daniel Jones just 97 yards passing on 30 attempts, and the Giants as a team totaled just 149 yards on 47 plays.

Stephon Gilmore reminded us that he's among the league's best cornerbacks with five passes defensed — more than his total in the previous five games (three) — with another outstanding performance in primetime.

Jamie Collins popped out another fumble, and Kyle Van Noy scored another touchdown on his scoop and score.

Ho-hum.

The Giants were just 2 of 10 on third downs, which means the Patriots have allowed opponents to convert just 10 of 73 third downs (13.7 percent). The Patriots are on pace to allow 26 third-down conversions for the entire season. The 1991 Saints hold the league record with 49.

Oh, and the Patriots just happen to be on pace to obliterate the league record for fewest points allowed (Ravens allowed 165 in 2000). With 48 points yielded through six games (21 were scored by the opposing defense), the Patriots are on pace to allow just 128 points for the season.

So, yes, these are heady times for Bill Belichick's defense.

Yet one key piece has basically watched from the sidelines during it all, especially on Thursday.

Michael Bennett, whom the Patriots traded a fifth-round pick to the Eagles for and gave him a $4 million signing bonus, played just 11 snaps against the Giants. He spent most of the game standing behind his fellow defenders, with his helmet unbuckled, sometimes with a jacket on.

Bennett didn't enter the game until the first snap of the second quarter and he played just three plays in the first half. Nearly 73 percent of his playing time (eight of 11 snaps) happened after the Patriots took a 28-14 lead with 7:54 to play in the game.

In other words, Bennett received end-of-the-bench garbage time. That's startling for a veteran player who has never played fewer than 600 snaps in a 16-game season, and has posted 148 quarterback pressures (22 sacks) in the previously two seasons combined.

Bennett is now on pace to play 346 snaps. His career-low was 565 in '16 when he was limited to just 11 games.

It leads you to wonder if this is the end of the road with the Patriots for Bennett, who has seen his playing time decrease every week — from 49.3 percent in the opener, to 22 percent on Thursday night.

His $6.5 million cap number might look very tempting to include in a possible trade for some offensive help.

What does Bennett think? In a conversation with BostonSportsJournal.com after the game, Bennett wasn't angry or exasperated. Indifferent and at a loss would be the appropriate words to describe his demeanor.

"I don't know what's