Rookie wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins watched the Patriots’ victory Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers from a Gillette Stadium luxury box, not far from the dozen Red Sox who brought their World Series trophy to the game.

But Thompkins, a healthy scratch for the first time this season, had nothing to celebrate. It was the most surprising personnel decision of the day, but coach Bill Belichick stood behind Thompkins while addressing the situation yesterday.

“I think KT is still making good progress and is working hard.” Belichick said. “I haven’t seen any letup in his effort level or trying to do things that he knows he needs to do. I think he’ll continue to improve and help our football team. Just the way things went (Sunday) with our game plan and our opponent and a combination of factors, we felt that we activated the 46 players that we felt would give us the best chance to win.

“I don’t think anybody has lost any confidence in KT, I certainly haven’t. I think he’s made a lot of improvement this year. He continues to work hard and I think will continue to make it.”
Thompkins played a season-low 13 snaps in Week 8 against the Miami Dolphins after averaging 64.9 snaps in his first seven games. His previous low snap total was 54 in Week 2.

Essentially, the deactivation was a way to add an extra defensive tackle to the mix, though the last player on the depth chart, Marcus Forston, didn’t play a down against the Steelers. In hindsight, the decision left the Pats undermanned at receiver when Austin Collie left with a knee injury in the first half.