14 games, 12 different d-line combos

In a piece now posted on ESPNBoston.com, Steven Krasner shines the spotlight on the Patriots' defensive line. The headline reads "No-quit mindset drives Pats' d-line", and the story focuses on how injuries have hit the unit but those left standing have held their ground, led by Vince Wilfork.

One of the unique aspects of the team's defensive line play this season is the different combinations utilized. When looking solely at the combinations in which the Patriots have opened games this year, there have been 12 different configurations.

This is much different from the mid 2000s when one could simply pencil in the names "Warren", "Wilfork" and "Seymour" across the defensive front and know those positions were locked down.

Some of the changes have been dictated by injuries.

Another part has been game-plan specific, with the Patriots moving their best lineman -- Wilfork -- to different spots.

Other times, one got the sense that Bill Belichick was searching for the right combination, testing how some players would respond to an expanded workload.

Then there is the fact that sometimes the Patriots bring their outside linebackers to a more traditional defensive end spot in a four-man line, which takes them out of the base 3-4 alignment.

Add it all up and it's been one of the unconventional aspects to the team's surprising season.