Snaps: Depth at DB exploited

January, 20, 2014
Jan 20
7:00
AM ET
DENVER – Snaps played by Patriots defenders in the team’s 26-16 AFC Championship Game loss to the Broncos, while analyzing what it means (as charted in the press box, small margin for error):

LB Don’t’a Hightower – 75 of 75
DE Rob Ninkovich – 75 of 75
S Devin McCourty – 74 of 75
DT Chris Jones – 73 of 75
CB Kyle Arrington – 72 of 75
LB Jamie Collins – 72 of 75
DE Chandler Jones – 72 of 75
S Steve Gregory – 70 of 75
CB Alfonzo Dennard – 67 of 75
CB Logan Ryan – 58 of 75
DT Sealver Siliga – 57 of 75
CB Aqib Talib – 19 of 75
DT Joe Vellano – 18 of 75
DE Andre Carter – 15 of 75
LB Dane Fletcher – 6 of 75
S Duron Harmon – 2 of 75

(Penalties included. Final kneel-down not included.)

ANALYSIS: The Patriots were in their 4-2-5 nickel package for most of the game against the Broncos' three-receiver attack. They played a 4-1-6 dime sparingly, were in their base 4-3 for one snap, and also called on the short-yardage package for a few snaps. Aqib Talib’s early second-quarter injury changed the complexion of things, which led to rookie Logan Ryan playing an extended role. It was a rocky game for him as the Patriots’ depth at defensive back was exploited. … At defensive end, the Patriots rode almost exclusively with Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones this season. Adding a consistent third option to complement them, whether it’s 2013 seventh-round draft choice Michael Buchanan or someone else, could be on the radar for 2014. ... The two snaps for safety Duron Harmon came in the dime defense after Talib got hurt, with the Patriots moving Devin McCourty down to cornerback. ... At linebacker, it was exclusively Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins in the nickel, with Dane Fletcher coming on for the base package and short-yardage.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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