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Woodhead easily picking things up

Fans have been impressed with Danny Woodhead’s play since he joined the Patriots six weeks ago. His position coach likes what he sees as well.

Speaking on a conference call yesterday, running backs coach Ivan Fears was asked about Woodhead’s pass protection. Despite routinely giving up a lot in height and weight to defensive players, Woodhead has held his own in blitz pickup.

“He’s done a great job with it,’’ Fears said. “The guy is a very smart guy. He sees the defense very well. He understands the rules and assignments. He’s done an excellent job of picking up our schemes.

“And most importantly, he’s been doggone effective as a blocker. He’s stood up against guys when he’s had to and he’s cut them down when he had the opportunity to.’’

In Sunday’s 28-18 win over the Vikings at Gillette Stadium, Woodhead took on rushers, but he also scored in the fourth quarter on a direct snap from Dan Koppen and twisted and churned his way to a 16-yard pickup on third and 12 that spurred the Patriots to the game-clinching touchdown.

“We call those guys ‘playmakers,’ ’’ Fears said. “Those guys have that. That’s why they’re on the field.

“If you go back to Kevin Faulk and think of the catches Kevin made throughout the years, those guys have that ability. Danny has the little knack about him. He knows how to make things happen when he has the ball in his hands.

“That’s what attracted us to the guy. He hasn’t let us down. Boy, he hasn’t let us down one bit. Those guys, that’s something they have.

“They have the ability to make a play when given the opportunity, and those are the types of guys you win with.’’

Missing you
Fears was asked about another key member of the running back group, Fred Taylor, who has not played in several weeks because of a toe injury.

He wouldn’t speak to the frustration Taylor is feeling, but Fears allowed that this certainly isn’t what Taylor had hoped for this season.

Fears wasn’t sure whether Taylor would be back at practice this week but said the Patriots will be happy when he does return, especially with the cold weather coming.

“We need every one of those guys we can get,’’ he said. “You know how those guys get nicked up, and we’re going to need him sometime.

“Fred’s a guy that has played in those key games at the end of the year and he’s also played in pressure games. He’s played in bad weather.

“It’d be exciting for me to have him back, no doubt about it. To have that experience and that ability back on the field, that playmaking ability back on the field, yes sir. I’d love to have him.’’

Welker a winner
In a Sports Illustrated poll of 245 NFL players, Patriots receiver Wes Welker and Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers were voted the most underrated players in the league; both received 5 percent of the vote. Texans receiver Andre Johnson and Baltimore running back Ray Rice each got 3 percent of the vote . . . The Patriots’ win over the Vikings was the most-watched television program in America last week. It drew a 15.2 household rating and 25.2 million viewers. The “Sunday Night Football’’ game between the Steelers and Saints drew 18.1 million viewers, while Game 4 of the World Series garnered 15.5 million viewers. Locally, Patriots-Vikings had a 64 share, making it the most-watched Patriots game in the Boston market since 2007.

Shalise Manza Young can be reached at syoung@globe.com.  

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