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Friday, September 20, 2013
Sub vs. base defensive breakdown

By Mike Reiss
ESPNBoston.com

One of the areas that will be charted throughout the season is the Patriots' defensive breakdown between their sub and base packages. This can highlight player value and take us deeper into the X's and O's of each game.

Through two games, here is the breakdown for the New England Patriots (including penalties):

Sub defense: 105 of 138 snaps
Base defense: 33 of 138 snaps

Here are some of the big takeaways:

Not seeing as much Spikes. Middle linebacker Brandon Spikes' playing time has been impacted, in part, by the Patriots being in so much sub defense. He had missed most of the first half of the season opener because of dehydration, but in the Week 2 win over the New York Jets, Dont'a Hightower was the second linebacker in the 4-2-5 nickel. Spikes has played 47 of 138 snaps this season, while Hightower has played 117 of 138 snaps.

Bills' plan skews numbers. In the season opener, the Bills stayed in their three-receiver package for almost every snap. The Patriots countered mostly with their 4-2-5 nickel defense, as cornerback Alfonzo Dennard came on as the fifth defensive back. The Patriots were only in their base defense for two snaps against the Bills, and this is a good example of how the fifth defensive back is essentially a starter some weeks (over a third linebacker).

Projecting the Buccaneers' approach. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have run the majority of their snaps with three receivers, and that looks like their most explosive grouping from this perspective. They do use fullback Erik Lorig (15 snaps last Sunday), as well as some multiple tight-end packages (26 of 62 snaps in opener), so the Patriots will probably be in their base defense at times Sunday. But this projects as more of a sub defense game, again highlighting the importance of a third cornerback like Dennard.