First it was left tackle Nate Solder, who suffered a torn right biceps in an Oct. 11 victory at Dallas. He was placed on injured reserve three days later, his season over.

Then it was running back Dion Lewis, the feel-good story of the fall for the New England Patriots. A torn ACL in his left knee against Washington on Nov. 8 ended his season.

Then it was wide receiver Julian Edelman, the team’s top pass catcher since the start of the 2013 season. He broke the fifth metatarsal in his left foot in last week’s 27-26 victory over the New York Giants and is likely to miss the rest of the regular season, though he could return for the playoffs.

And there have been other injuries on the offensive line, each one chipping away at the effectiveness of an offense that has been the NFL’s best. But veteran linemen Marcus Cannon and Sebastian Vollmer returned to practice this past week, along with rookie guard Tre’ Jackson, as the Patriots (9-0) prepared for Monday night’s game against the Buffalo Bills (5-4) at Gillette Stadium.

That’s great news for quarterback Tom Brady, given the Bills’ talent on the defensive front.

But the Patriots are stretched about as thin as they can get at the skill positions. And as much pride as this team takes in its “next man up” philosophy, you’ve got to wonder if all the injuries will finally catch up with them.

Rex Ryan, Buffalo’s always entertaining head coach, doesn’t think they will.

When asked about New England’s injuries, he said, “First off, let me cry.”

Then, taking a more serious tone, he said, “They lost a good player in Edelman and things. No, shoot, they got good players behind them. So I don’t think there is going to be that big of a difference. You know they are going to do the same thing regardless of who is in there. That’s the Patriot Way.”

He was then asked, “How much does 12 (Brady) make up for that?”

“Is he still playing?” Ryan asked.

The reporter responded, “Last time I checked.”

“Oh,” said Ryan, “he probably helps them out a little bit.”

Yes, it is the Patriot Way to push on and persevere. And it is good to have No. 12 calling the signals. Brady’s ability to dissect a defense has always been his greatest asset.

But this is going to be a different-looking Patriots offense for the rest of the season. Lewis and Edelman created mismatches in coverage and were more elusive than anyone else on the roster. Once they caught the ball, they made defenders miss tackles.

Brady knows it’s going to be hard. “You wish you could just plug someone else in,” he said. “But … Julian Edelmans just aren’t sitting out on the street, or else they’d be playing for another team.”

So how will the Patriots replace them? Not with one player.

Danny Amendola, who was a huge factor in New England’s comeback victory against the Giants with his punt returns and catches, is likely to become much more active in the offense.

But that means someone has to step into Amendola’s role. That could be third-year wide receiver Aaron Dobson or rookie Chris Harper, just called up from the practice squad. Brandon LaFell, who missed the first five games as he recovered from offseason surgery, also needs to become more productive.

With Vollmer and Cannon returning – and with Bryan Stork taking on a bigger role on the offensive line – it’s possible the Patriots will hand the ball more often to running back LeGarrette Blount, who always seems to play better this time of year. Second-year running back James White needs to play better to become the third-down back that Lewis was and keep drives going.

Still, no matter how the Patriots run the offense, it would be unrealistic to think they will continue to keep up their scoring pace. They lead the NFL with 33.7 points per game.

So it will be up to the defense – which has steadily improved during the season – to be even more of a factor. The Patriots have allowed 18.8 points per game – fourth best in the NFL – and have the second-best run defense at 88.2 yards per game. They have 30 sacks, second in the league. Defensive end Chandler Jones leads the NFL with 10.5 sacks.

Yeah, they give up yards in the passing game, as they did last week against the Giants. But this defense has a knack for making the big play at the right moment – Malcolm Butler stripping Odell Beckham Jr. of a touchdown in the final minutes last Sunday is just the latest example – and that’s why they don’t give up many points.

Linebacker Jamie Collins has missed the last two games because of an illness and has been ruled out for Monday’s game. He still leads the team in tackles, and when he returns the defense will be even better.

Will the Patriots miss Lewis and Edelman the rest of the way? Of course. They combined for 11 touchdowns this season.

But someone is going to step in.

“Whoever plays, we expect them to play well,” said Coach Bill Belichick. “That’s what they’re here for.”