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Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins makes his presence felt despite playing limited snaps in his return

Related: Instant analysis from Patriots’ 25-22 win over Texans

NFL: New England Patriots at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Jamie Collins was used only sparingly in his first game back with the New England Patriots. The veteran linebacker, who returned to the club earlier this week, was on the field for only nine combined snaps in the team’s Week 5 victory over the Houston Texans.

While six of those snaps came in the kicking game, Collins played only three on the defensive side of the ball. However, the 31-year-old made the most out of them and delivered one of the best plays of the day for an oftentimes sloppy defense.

After tying the game at 22 midway through the fourth period, momentum was moving the Patriots’ way. However, they needed another defensive stop to give Mac Jones and the offense an opportunity to drive for the game-winning points.

The unit was able to do that, in large part thanks to Collins registering a pivotal 8-yard sack against Houston quarterback Davis Mills just two plays after Jones and company tied the game. The defender burst through the line on a 2nd-and-8, taking advantage of center Justin Britt reacting too late:

The sack put the Texans behind the sticks, and they failed to gain enough yards on the ensuing third down to stay on the field. The next drive saw the Patriots bleed seven minutes off the clock before kicking a field goal to win with only seconds left on the clock.

“It just feels good to get a win on the road. It’s always hard on the road to get a win. We put it out. We kept fighting, kept fighting,” Collins said after the 25-22 victory.

“Sack felt good, obviously. Always like sacking the quarterback, getting after the quarterback. But it’s even better when you win on the road.”

Collins opened the 2021 season as a member of the Detroit Lions, but the team decided to release him in late September. After a week on the open market, he returned to his old stomping grounds: the Patriots brought him back for a third time, after he already played for them from 2013 to 2016 and again in 2019.

While he does have plenty of experience in the system, however, he acknowledged that returning would not be as easy as it might look.

“It ain’t like riding a bike, I can tell you that. It ain’t that easy,” Collins said on Sunday. “Playing for the Patriots, like I said before, it’s an honor. I’m blessed, I’m grateful. Third time coming back, that’s big. They keep giving me chances. I’m definitely grateful, very proud.”

Collins provided a spark on an otherwise up-and-down day for New England’s defense. He also drew some praise from fellow linebacker Matthew Judon after the game in Houston.

“Jamie is way more athletic than me,” Judon said about his new teammate.

“He plays every spot. He plays every spot on the defense. He can do any and everything. He is kind of like a [Dont’a] Hightower. Just to have him out there, him rush the A-gap and get a sack, I think he was only out there for like two defensive snaps, and then he got a sack. I wish I could do that. But I’m on the edge, and when he’s in the middle going for it, we are going to have 100 percent confidence in what Jamie can do and when Jamie is out on the field.”

The Patriots defense as a whole did not play its best football versus the Texans, and Collins himself also has plenty of room for improvement after his limited output. However, if he can continue to make the occasional big play, bringing him back could turn out to be a good decision by the team — just like it was in 2019.