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Patriots players defend hip-drop tackle that injured Rhamondre Stevenson

Patriots players defend hip-drop tackle that injured Rhamondre Stevenson originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The New England Patriots continued in their losing ways Sunday, falling 6-0 to the Los Angeles Chargers with Bailey Zappe under center. Things continued to get worse for the Patriots, losing running back Rhamondre Stevenson in the first quarter of the game to a right ankle injury.

Chargers rookie linebacker Tuli Tuipulotu appeared to take Stevenson down with a hip-drop tackle, using momentum to drive his own hip into the ground to stop the Patriot running back.

The hip-drop tackle has been a topic of controversy this season, with many calling for its removal from the sport. But a pair of Patriots players, David Andrews and Jabrill Peppers, defend the play.

"It's football, man," Peppers said of the hit that took Stevenson out of the game. "However you can get a guy on the ground that’s legal, you do it."

Peppers hasn't by shy to call out opposing teams' players for dirty plays. After last week's loss to the Giants, Peppers called out a New York defender for clotheslining Patriot receiver Demario Douglas, leading to an injury that held Douglas out of this week's contest. Rather than calling out Tuipulotu for the already controversial hip-drop tackle, Peppers chose to defend the play, saying it's just part of the game.

Andrews seemed to agree with Peppers.

“It’s the defense’s job to tackle guys," Andrews added. "I don’t think [defenders] are doing it with malicious intent.”

Rules in the NFL are constantly changing to protect players, but this is one rule players don't see a need for change on. Listed at 6-foot, 227 pounds, Stevenson is not a small back by any means. Had Tuipulotu not used his body weight and momentum to bring Stevenson to the ground, he could have broken free and gained additional yards.

Prior to Stevenson's first quarter exit, the running back had logged 39 yards on nine rush attempts, fumbling on the play that took him out. The third-year back was on pace for his fourth game in a row crossing 100 total yards, a feat that hadn't been accomplished by a Patriot since Wes Welker in 2012.

First year Patriot Ezekiel Elliott filled in for Stevenson, gaining 52 yards on 17 rush attempts, also making his mark in the receiving game with four catches on five targets for 40 yards.

The Patriots will have a short week ahead of them, taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers, on Thursday, Dec. 7 at 8:15 p.m. ET. Steelers' quarterback Kenny Pickett was injured in their Sunday afternoon game, being ruled out with an ankle injury. He was later seen on the sideline wearing a boot.