Five games, four different d-lines

October, 21, 2010
10/21/10
4:00
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots coach Bill Belichick and his assistants often make the point that they are a "game-plan" team, one that crafts its plan each week specific to that opponent.

Unlike other teams who focus more on perfecting one style of play and force the opposition to adapt to that, the Patriots prefer to switch things up on a game-to-game basis based on an opponents' strengths and weaknesses.

One area where part of this approach has come to life is on the defensive line in the base 3-4 alignment.

In five games, the Patriots have used four different combinations up front. Here is a look at the different combinations, with a quick-hit thought as to why the team approached it that way:

Game 1 -- Bengals
Personnel:
LDE Warren/NT Wilfork/RDE Wright
Quick hit: The Patriots played a variety of fronts to confuse Carson Palmer and liberally rotated personnel at each spot throughout the game. This trio started based on experience and performance in training camp/preseason.

Game 2 -- Jets
Personnel: LDE Brace/NT Wilfork/RDE Warren
Quick hit: Against the ground-and-approach, more beef was needed so Brace replaced the smaller Wright in the top group. Brace is most comfortable on the left side, so Warren kicked to the right side.

Game 3 -- Bills
Personnel:
LDE Brace/NT Wilfork/RDE Warren
Quick hit: The line had held its ground in the running game the week before, and with the triple threat of Bills running backs Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller coming to town, the idea was to stick with what worked in defending the run.

Game 4 -- Dolphins
Personnel:
LDE Wilfork/NT Wright/RDE Warren
Quick hit: In the past, the Dolphins had schemed up specifically against Wilfork on the nose, so this was a tactical change-up to throw them off. The change also reflected how the Patriots viewed the Dolphins' offensive line, which is strongest at tackle, so it made sense to put their best lineman on the end.

Game 5 -- Ravens
Personnel:
LDE Deaderick/NT Warren/RDE Wilfork
Quick hit: As noted by ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi, the Ravens had success with off-tackle runs in last year's playoff game, so keeping Wilfork at end gave the Patriots the best chance to combat that. Warren showed his versatility by lining up on the nose, the third different spot on the line he's played this season.

Bill Belichick comment: "I think that whole group, we have a lot of confidence in all of them. It could be the same [lineup] or it could be different. But whoever we put out there, we have a lot of confidence in. Those guys have all done a good job."

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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