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Monday, November 25, 2013
Snaps: Reserve LBs do their part

By Mike Reiss

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Snaps played by Patriots defenders in Sunday's 34-31 win over the Broncos, while analyzing what it means (as charted in the press box, small margin for error):

S Duron Harmon – 90 of 90
DE Chandler Jones – 90 of 90
DT Chris Jones – 90 of 90
S Devin McCourty – 90 of 90
DE Rob Ninkovich – 90 of 90
CB Kyle Arrington – 85 of 90
CB Aqib Talib – 80 of 90
DT Joe Vellano – 70 of 90
CB Logan Ryan – 69 of 90
LB Brandon Spikes – 68 of 90
LB Dane Fletcher – 57 of 90
LB Dont’a Hightower – 33 of 90
LB Jamie Collins – 22 of 90
CB Alfonzo Dennard – 21 of 90
DT Isaac Sopoaga – 14 of 90
CB Justin Green – 8 of 90
CB Marquice Cole – 7 of 90
DE Andre Carter – 6 of 90

(Penalties included.)

ANALYSIS: Contributions from linebackers Dane Fletcher and Jamie Collins, who haven’t been a big part of defensive plans prior to this point, stood out. Fletcher had played 68 total defensive snaps through the first nine games of the season and nearly matched the total on Sunday night, when he had a key forced fumble. Fletcher was thrust into action when linebacker Dont’a Hightower came out of the game late in the second quarter and didn’t play another snap the rest of the way. As for Collins, he was “active”, according to Bill Belichick. That was reflected in his snaps-to-tackle ratio, which was impressive (22 snaps, 10 tackles). The Patriots spent most of the game in their 4-2-5 nickel and the speed and range of Fletcher and Collins helped the club. … One aspect of the 4-2-5 nickel that was a bit different from the norm was that it didn’t include No. 3 defensive end Andre Carter until late. The Patriots kept a second defensive tackle on the field over a third-DE (when they kick DE Chandler Jones inside) in hopes of staying stout against the run. Run defense was a struggle for them. … The 90 snaps were two shy of the season high (92, vs. Jets, Oct. 20) … Players to monitor on the injury front who didn’t play in the second half: Hightower, DT Isaac Sopoaga and CB Alfonzo Dennard. … With Sopoaga sidelined, and first-year player Marcus Forston inactive, it left Joe Vellano and Chris Jones as the lone defensive tackles. That’s another reminder of how the season-ending injuries to Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly have had a big effect on the club. … It looked like a pre-set rotation was adopted at cornerback in the first half, just to give ailing players a chance to limit their workload. It showed up on the fifth drive when rookie Justin Green, promoted from the practice squad on Saturday, replaced Aqib Talib.