by Scott Benson

Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe reports that the Patriots have placed running back Sammy Morris on Injured Reserve this afternoon.

The move prematurely ends the season for the veteran free agent, who suffered a chest injury in a freak pileup during the Patriots win over Dallas in October.

Morris had impressed with his bruising, straight-ahead style while filling in for Laurence Maroney, who must now remain injury-free for the first time in his career if the Patriots are to maintain any semblance of a rushing threat as they drive towards the NFL playoffs.

Morris had averaged 4.5 yards a carry in 85 attempts, and had rushed for 100 yards in consecutive games against Cincinnati and Cleveland before Stephen Neal and Dallas linebacker Bradie James fell on him in the third quarter of the Patriots’ 48-17 win over the Cowboys. The pile up caused injury to Morris’s sternum, according to a report filed by John Tomase of the Herald shortly after.

Maroney, who has missed three games already this year with a hamstring injury after tailing badly with a shoulder problem at the end of his rookie season, is now the only bona fide running threat the Patriots have. Behind him, at least for now, remains only Heath Evans and Kyle Eckel, sturdy runners both, but neither the type to cause much concern for rival defensive coordinators.

Greg Doyle of Patriots Daily reminds us this afternoon that the Patriots entertained former Jet Kevan Barlow for a try-out earlier this season. Other ‘big backs’ available include Ciatrick Fason, late of the Vikings and one career start.

The decision to IR Morris is unlikely to play a major role in this Sunday’s mega-matchup with the world champion Colts. Morris had not practiced since his injury in Dallas and was not expected to be active in this weekend’s action.

The Patriots have been fortunate to avoid fallout from injury to date, cruising through the first two months without Richard Seymour and overcoming nicks to Neal and center Dan Koppen without incident. The team’s varied attack has also prospered despite the loss of promising tight end David Thomas, who suffered a broken foot in the off-season that he was never able to recover from.

It remains to be seen if that will be the case with the loss of Morris, who quickly became in a fan favorite as the successor to retired Patriot Corey Dillon, whose name will no doubt be invoked in the coming days. Dillon has reportedly declined at least one invitation to return to the NFL this season.