Snaps: Spikes & the sub defense

January, 22, 2013
1/22/13
9:10
PM ET
Snaps played by Patriots defenders in the team’s 28-13 AFC Championship Game loss to the Ravens, while analyzing what it means (small margin for error):

LB Jerod Mayo – 72 of 72
S Devin McCourty – 72 of 72
CB Alfonzo Dennard – 70 of 72
S Steve Gregory – 70 of 72
DE Rob Ninkovich – 68 of 72
DL Vince Wilfork – 67 of 72
CB Kyle Arrington – 65 of 72
LB Brandon Spikes – 60 of 72
DE Justin Francis -- 55 of 72
DL Brandon Deaderick – 48 of 72
LB Dont’a Hightower – 39 of 72
CB Marquice Cole – 33 of 72
DE Jermaine Cunningham – 32 of 72
DE Trevor Scott – 17 of 72
S Tavon Wilson – 9 of 72
CB Aqib Talib – 8 of 72
DT Kyle Love – 3 of 72
S Patrick Chung – 2 of 72
DE Chandler Jones – 2 of 72

(Penalties included. Game-ending kneel-downs not included.)

ANALYSIS: Brandon Spikes mostly stayed on over Dont’a Hightower as the second sub linebacker alongside Jerod Mayo, and the Ravens attacked him with success with tight end Dennis Pitta. It’s one game, but this could raise questions this offseason if Spikes will continue to play in the sub going forward or if he’ll return to more of a base-defense only type of role. … CB Aqib Talib’s eight snaps came on the first two series before he left with a thigh injury. This taxed the depth of the secondary, with Kyle Arrington moving into a starting role and Marquice Cole up to nickelback. Starter Alfonzo Dennard and Arrington were competitive from this viewpoint, while Cole looked overmatched against Anquan Boldin. The coverage issues seemed to be mostly with Cole in the slot and linebacker Brandon Spikes and safety Steve Gregory in the middle of the field against Pitta. … The 55 snaps were a season high for rookie DE Justin Francis, who started in place of Chandler Jones (ankle). With Francis playing on more early downs, he came off in some sub situations, which is where he excelled most this season as a pass rusher. … The Patriots played more sub defense in the second half, a result of the Ravens going to mostly “11” personnel (1 running back, 1 tight end, 3 receivers), and the Patriots attempted to generate more pass rush by subbing the lighter Jermaine Cunningham (DE) in for the heavier Brandon Deaderick (DT) as an interior lineman. Cunningham played five snaps in the first half and 27 in the second half but couldn’t help spark the rush. … DE Rob Ninkovich, who colleague Field Yates viewed as the Patriots’ best defensive player in the game, proved his worth as a true three-down player. … DL Kyle Love’s three snaps came on the opening series before he left with a knee injury. … DE Chandler Jones, playing a limited role because of an ankle injury, only played 2 snaps as part of the goal-line package. … The two snaps on defense for safety Patrick Chung came in the goal-line package. At one time earlier in his career, Chung had played in the slot and that was an area the defense was hurt. Chung’s decline in playing time in the second half of the season would seem to be an indication he’ll be playing elsewhere in 2013, as he is a free agent.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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