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Friday, November 26, 2010
Defensive snaps: Love, Fletcher on radar

By Mike Reiss

A look at the snaps played by Patriots defenders in Thursday's 45-24 win over the Lions, while analyzing possible trends in the weeks ahead (as charted in press box, small margin for error):

LB Jerod Mayo -- 77 of 77
CB Devin McCourty -- 77 of 77
S James Sanders -- 75 of 77
S Brandon Meriweather -- 73 of 77
CB/DE Kyle Arrington -- 72 of 77
OLB/DE Tully Banta-Cain -- 67 of 77
S Patrick Chung -- 65 of 77
LB Gary Guyton -- 60 of 77
DL Vince Wilfork -- 45 of 77
OLB/DE Jermaine Cunningham -- 41 of 77
DL Gerard Warren -- 41 of 77
LB Dane Fletcher -- 31 of 77
OLB/DE Rob Ninkovich -- 29 of 77
DL Kyle Love -- 22 of 77
CB Darius Butler -- 21 of 77
DL Ron Brace -- 20 of 77
ILB Brandon Spikes -- 17 of 77
LB/DL Pierre Woods -- 11 of 77
S Sergio Brown -- 3 of 77

(Includes offensive pass interference penalty and illegal touching penalty.)

ANALYSIS: The Patriots dressed just four pure defensive linemen and eight defensive backs, which was an early indication that they wouldn't be in the base 3-4 alignment often. Instead, this would be a game played mostly in sub packages against a Lions offense that ranked 31st rushing and third in passing. ... Once again, the defense played a high total of snaps, in part because of struggles on third down (Lions were 7 of 14). The Patriots rank last in the NFL in that category. ... Rookie defensive lineman Kyle Love played a season-high total of snaps, most often as part of a sub package in which he was the only pure defensive lineman. ... Rookie linebacker Dane Fletcher also played a season-high total of snaps, all as part of a sub package along with fellow inside linebackers Jerod Mayo and Gary Guyton. ... One area that coach Bill Belichick should consider, in this opinion, is removing Mayo from the game when the outcome is decided like it was late in the fourth quarter (45-24 with 3:14 to play). Given Mayo's three-down importance to the team, as well as the chippy nature of the game at that point, it seemed like an unnecessary risk to have him on the field for the final drive. The challenge is likely that no other player can pull it all together like Mayo, but moving Guyton into that role, and then inserting someone like S Jarrad Page in a linebacker-type role, seemed like it would have been a smart decision. ... Veteran defensive lineman Gerard Warren had his most extended action in recent weeks, playing end in the 3-4 and also rushing from an interior position in sub packages. ... At safety, Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders were the top tandem, with Patrick Chung the third option in the nickel (5 defensive backs). ... There was a media-based question as to who would start at right cornerback after Darius Butler took over for Kyle Arrington in the second half against the Colts; it was Arrington. Butler was part of the dime package (6 defensive backs) early and later showed up in the nickel. ... Arrington was used as a rusher off the defensive left edge in a 3-3-5 nickel late in the game. ... OLB Pierre Woods rushed from a three-point stance over the center and guard on the Lions' final drive. ... Overall, the Patriots needed to get more out of their pass rush, as they only registered two quarterback hits, none coming from their top edge-rushers Tully Banta-Cain, Jermaine Cunningham and Rob Ninkovich. ... Unlike this plan, the Patriots figure to be in heavier packages Dec. 6 against the Jets, which should mean a return to the active roster for defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick, who was a healthy scratch.