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Patriots rookie report: Week 10

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By PFW staff

Here's a look at how the Patriots' first-year players are faring through nine games:

CB Devin McCourty (first round): The Rutgers alum finished the game second on the team with nine tackles. What was most impressive about McCourty's performance, though, was his two special-teams tackles, both coming on kick coverage. Steelers KR Emmanuel Sanders had success on returns, but McCourty stopped him in his tracks twice, showing his speed and tackling ability.

TE Rob Gronkowski (second round): "Gronk" will get a chance as the league's rookie of the week following his 5-72-3 performance, becoming the first rookie tight end in 20 years with three TD catches. On the field for almost every offensive snap, Gronkowski also had the task of blocking Steelers linebackers, in addition to making big plays as a receiver.

OLB Jermaine Cunningham (second round): One of the team's better pass rushers did not make it onto the stat sheet but had multiple plays where he got into the Steelers' backfield. Cunningham was off the field most of the second half as the Patriots countered the Steelers' three-WR look with a nickel defense.

ILB Brandon Spikes (second round): Deferring to Jerod Mayo to run-blitz on Sunday, Spikes had just two tackles but, as he has been all season, was around the ball often and helped a Patriots effort that held the Steelers to just 76 rushing yards.

TE Aaron Hernandez (fourth round): Battling with McCourty to be the team's top rookie, Hernandez had his least productive game all season with zero catches on just two targets. After catching two TD passes in Week Nine, Hernandez was barely on the field in Week 10, watching Gronkowski have a career day.

P Zoltan Mesko (fifth round): Like most of his teammates, Mesko had an improved effort after a rough Week Nine outing. Against the Steelers, Mesko dropped three punts inside the 20, averaging 40.2 yards a punt with a long of 53.

DE Brandon Deaderick (seventh round): Deaderick started at right end and played most of the game in the team's base package. He did not record a tackle but gets credit for occupying offensive linemen and helping the Patriots' stellar run defense.

LB Dane Fletecher (undrafted free agent): Fletcher had a special-teams tackle. He has not been on the field on defense much, sticking to kick or punt coverage.

Notes: DL Kyle Love (UFA) was active but did not record a tackle. ... WR Taylor Price (third round) remained inactive.

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