2010 Patriots Defensive Analysis Archives

Cincinnati Bengals

The Patriots were able to shut down the Bengals running attack by using dime packages with a rotation of lineman that included Vince Wilfork. They matched receivers to cornerbacks (Owens - McCourty, Ochocinco - Butler, Shipley - Wilhite, Gresham - Sanders). Meriweather did not play in the base 3-4. Chung excelled all over the field. Mayo and Banta-Cain rarely left the field.

Sub package: 58 of 78 
3-4 defense: 17 of 78 
Short yardage: 3 of 78 

Defensive Third Downs (1st down allowed): 8/15 = 53%

Closer Look at Defensive Wizardy

Sub Packages Led the Way

@ New York Jets

Used the 3-4 base to shut down the run. Ron Brace got first start at LDE, Gerard Warren slid over the RDE. Lots of rotation along the defensive line, Wilfork played all positions. Kyle Love saw time as the backup NT. Also used a heavy nickel with Wilfork to discourage running on subpackages (a recurring problem). Jermaine Cunningham saw time at ROLB.

Pure Pass Rush package had Cunningham, Pryor, Banta-Cain as down lineman. Coverage was abused by Jets. Pressure was decent.

Base: 45 of 68 
Sub: 22 of 68 
Short-yardage: 1 of 68 

Defensive Third Downs (1st down allowed): 6/13 = 46%

Building Block for Base Defense

Buffalo Bills

Darius Butler was replaced for a majority of the game by Kyle Arrington who did okay. Butler got in for a couple snaps but had a mistackle and gave up a long gain. Jermaine Cunningham continues to grow, starting at ROLB, and seeing time at LOLB. Jarrad Page played some snaps at Safety, looked fast but made some mistakes. Game plan seemed fairly basic, with some more of the 3-3-5 that we hadn’t seen since preseason. 

Sub: 38 of 56 
Base: 18 of 56 
Short-yardage: 0 of 56 

Defensive Third Downs (1st down allowed): 5/10 = 50%

Charting the Pass Rush

Sub Defense Needs Work

@ Miami Dolphins

This was a fairly straightforward game plan using base 3-4, and a 4-man rush nickel package. Brandon Marshall was effectively shutdown through an ever-changing variety of coverages. Brandon Deaderick showed good stuff in limited time at RE. Still broken plays and busted coverages, a multitude of 3rd down conversions. Still lots of room for improvement, but there are definite signs of good things to come.

Defensive Third Downs (1st down allowed): 10/15 = 66%

Baltimore Ravens

The Patriots were in their base 34 defense for 75% of the snaps (only other time the 34 was used a majority of the time was against the Jets). Gerard Warren moved to NT, with rookie Brandon Deaderick starting at LDE and Wilfork at RDE. The defense was solid against the run, holding Ray Rice in check. Tully Banta-Cain was limited to DPR while Jermaine Cunningham continued to have his role expanded. Dane Fletcher made an appearance late in the game in a 3-3-5 nickel package. Crable had some pass rush.

Base: 58 of 77 
Sub: 18 of 77 
Short-yardage: 1 of 77 

Defensive Third Downs (1st down allowed):5/16 = 31%

Base Defense Big Part of Success

San Diego Chargers

The 3-4 defense was again solid vs the run. But the subpackages in the second half gave up alot of yards and almost cost them the game in the fourth quarter. Clutch special teams come through again causing a false start penalty that backed the field goal attempt to tie five yards. 

Sub: 50 of 71 
 18 of 71 
Short-yardage: 3 of 71 

Defensive Third Downs (1st down allowed): 7/15 = 46%

Base vs. Sub Defense

Minnesota Vikings

The Patriots played a great majority of their base 3-4 defense and it was again effective in shutting down a pretty good run game. A huge goal line stand on fourth down was a key play, made by Brace, Ninkovich and Spikes. There were some penalties on third down but it was one of their better defensive performances.

Base: 44 of 73 
Sub: 26 of 73 
Short-yardage: 3 of 73 

Defensive Third Downs (1st down allowed):4/11 = 36%

Patriots stayed at home in base

Cleveland Browns

The Patriots opened with Wilfork-Pryor-Wright as their 34 down lineman, an interesting decision considering Pryor and Wright are not known as run stuffers and Peyton Hillis was a runner who needed to be stuffed. The predictable result was Hillis running all over the Pats and opening up the rest of the Browns offense. There weren’t many solid performances on defense other than maybe Jonathan Wilhite who had a good 3rd down tackle and pass defended. 

Base: 47 of 62 
Sub: 5 of 62 
Short-yardage: 10 of 62 

Defensive Third Downs (1st down allowed): 7/13 = 53%

Base defense look to rebound

Pittsburgh Steelers

Surprisingly the Patriots played a great majority of sub defense against the Steelers, but were still able to shut down the Steeler ground attack. The pass rushing package featured Crable-Wright-Warren-Banta Cain. Sergio Brown continued to see more time even with Patrick Chung back in the fold. Chung played a lot of nickel corner, with Jonathan Wilhite getting a reduced role. 

Sub: 61 of 78 
Base: 15 of 78 
Short-yardage: 2 of 78 

Defensive Third Downs (1st down allowed): 5/12 = 41%

Looking closer at the defensive plan

Sub defense rose up to challenge

Indianapolis Colts

The Patriots employed a nickel package for most of the game that had Cunningham - Wilfork - Wright - Banta-Cain up front. They only went to the 3-4 in obvious run downs and did a great job stopping the run. Without Wilhite they were forced to use Patrick Chung as the nickelback and he was exploited. The Pats got just enough pressure to force Peyton Manning into some bad throws, the most glaring of which was Cunningham getting a hand on Manning that forced him into throwing the game sealing interception to James Sanders. Pass defense was again shredded in the fourth quarter and remains the one truly glaring weakness on this team.

Sub: 55 of 72 
Base: 15 of 72 
Short-yardage: 2 of 72 

Defensive Third Downs (1st down allowed): 11/14 = 78%

Patriots strayed from base defense

Detroit Lions

The Patriots weren’t afraid of Detroit’s ground game and played mostly in subpackages.  Lack of pressure and inability to bring the QB down when they got to him haunted the defense all day. Again turnovers were the difference as Devin McCourty’s first interception turned the game around. Not everyone showed up for this game on the defensive side of the ball which had to be expected somewhat given it came between the Colts and Jets. They did enough to win, but it certainly exhibited the same problems we’ve seen all season.

Sub: 62 of 77 
Base: 13 of 77 
Short-yardage: 2 of 77 

Defensive Third Downs (1st down allowed): 7/14 = 50%

OLBs as DEs in Sub Packages

New York Jets

The Pats played far more subpackages in the rematch and while they gave up some yards on the ground they shut down the passing attack. Some new wrinkles: Darius Butler at nickelback (Chung had been filling in for Wilhite there), Dane Fletcher seeing time as an OLB in the 34 base. Jarrad Page getting significant reps. The Patriots used a lot of presnap movement that seemed to confuse Sanchez, or at least make him think. Brandon Spikes saw extensive time, even in some passing situations (had an INT).

Defensive Third Downs (1st down allowed): 3/12 = 25%

Chicago Bears

In heavy snow and weather the Patriots had a fair mix of defenses. Once a lead was established there was far less 34. Most interesting was the lessened role of Brandon Meriweather who saw time in only a dime package. Devin McCourty’s injury forced Darius Butler to LCB and Pat Chung in to Nickel CB. New addition Eric Moore got a shot at the revolving LDPR position and played better than Crable had. Jarrad Page continues to see more and more time.

Defensive Third Downs (1st down allowed): 3/8 = 37%

Green Bay Packers

Due to injuries on the defensive line the Pats didn’t have a lot of versatility so the game plan was pretty straight forward 34, nickel, dime packages. Runs against their subpackages killed them. Pressure on QB was good, but some coverage lapses killed them. Sloppy game by a skeleton crew. Hard to take too much from it. Defense was on field for whopping 80 snaps. Atrocious on 3rd downs.

Defensive Third Downs (1st down allowed): 11/19 = 57%

Buffalo Bills

The Pats were shorthanded on the defensive line and used the chance to play new guys Eric Moore (OLB) and Landon Cohen extensively. After getting gashed early in the run game they went to more 3-4 and shut it down. Overall an excellent game of bend don’t break.

Defensive Third Downs (1st down allowed): 3/10 = 30%

Miami Dolphins

A healthy mix of 3-4 and sub packages led the Pats to one of their most dominating defensive efforts of the season. Again Landon Cohen and Eric Moore saw extensive time, Moore has been making plays ever since he came to New England.

Defensive Third Downs (1st down allowed): 4/13 = 30%


Base 3-4

Brace - Wilfork - Warren

Ninkovich - Spikes - Mayo - Cunningham

McCourty - Meriweather - Chung - Arrington

Bengals: Meriweather not used in base 3-4 vs. Bengals, but was used in all other packages. Brace substitutes in at LDE. Murrell substitutes in at LOLB in 2nd half. 

@ Jets: Far more use of the base 3-4. Kyle Love saw time at the nose, Jermaine Cunningham saw time at ROLB. Meriweather continues to be used behind James Sanders. Ninkovich significant minutes at LOLB.

Bills: 34 used frequently. Cunningham started at ROLB, played some LOLB too. Ninkovich logged a lot of mins. Crable saw time at LOLB.

@Dolphins: Wilfork - Wright - Warren was the primary front, with Deadrick getting time at RE and showing well. Cunningham again started at ROLB, Banta-Cain saw plenty of time as well. Ninkovich played primarily LOLB, getting 2 INTs. Meriweather returned to the starting 3-4 defense.

Ravens - Deaderick starts at LDE, Warren at NT, Wilfork at RDE. Brace subs Deaderick but limited snaps.

@Chargers - Deaderick remains as starter, but all lineman play all over in the 3-4 (75-92-99, 71-92-99, 75-91-99, 75-92-71), including this new pass rush 3-4. All other starters remain.

Vikings - 71-75-99 were the starters. 97-75-71 for 3rd/4th series. 97-75-92 to start 3rd Q. 91 subbed 75 for one series in 3rd. 95, 50, 96 all rotate thru all OLB spots. 

Colts - 34 used rarely but when it was for run stopping it was 97-75-92.

Pass Rush 3-4

Wilfork - Pryor - Wright


Big 4-2-5 Nickel

Wright - Pryor - Wilfork - Brace

Mayo - Spikes

Butler - Sanders - Chung - Meriweather - McCourty

Bengals: Opened game against Bengal 3-WR set with this.

Nickel Front Variations

Ninkovich/Cunningham/Crable - Wright - Pryor/Wilfork - Banta-Cain

The Patriots rotate their defensive lineman and passrushers depending on the situation. Wright/Pryor/Wilfork are the primary interior guys while the outside linebackers rotate on the outside, usually with their hand down, but sometimes standing/walking around to create confusion.

The backend remains usually the same, though Arrington replaced Butler against the Bills.

@Dolphins: Nickel Fronts

Cunningham - Pryor - Wright or

Cunningham - Wilfork - Pryor

Guyton (cover) - Mayo (cover/rush) - Banta-Cain (rush)

Vikings Nickels:

95-75-99-71 (run protection)

98-99-91-95 (straight up rush) 

Steelers Nickel

This was the primary package used most of the game. Of note is Patrick Chung handled nickel corner duties over Jonathan Wilhite.

98-99-92-95 (Pryor DNP)




Big 3-3-5 Nickel 

Warren - Wilfork - Wright

Banta-Cain - Spikes/Guyton - Mayo

McCourty - Chung - Butler

Meriweather - Sanders

Bills: Used but only in some spots. 3rd and 5. Seems like the package for mid-distance 3rd downs, with some run protection.

3-3-5 Nickel

Crable - Wright - Pryor

Fletcher - Mayo - Guyton

McCourty - Page - Meriweather - Chung - Arrington

Ravens - Fletcher was used as a spy on Ray Rice and did a solid job. This was the first time we’ve seen a look like this one, probably something whipped up during the bye week. Fletcher should continue to see an increased role. Chung dropped into nickel coverage over Wilhite.

Chargers - Again used in the same fashion as it was against the Ravens. Fletcher looks like he could overtake Guyton at some point.





Big Dime

Wright - Wilfork - Pryor

Mayo - Banta-Cain

McCourty - Wilhite - Sanders - Butler

Meriweather - Chung

Bengals: The three down lineman were rotated quite often, with Wilfork playing in all three positions. Pryor, Wright, Wilfork, Cunningham were the primary down lineman which gives them protection against the run. Brace was also worked in during the second half. Guyton was spelling Banta-Cain on his interception play. Ninkovich was also used as a DPR (Designated Pass Rusher).

@Jets: Seems this package is used in probably passing downs when the Pats want to maintain a presence against the run by keeping Wilfork in, usually in whatever gap they most want to protect. Chung was used primarily in coverage against the tight end (Dustin Keller) while Gary Guyton was used to both as a blitzer and in coverage vs. the rb (Ladainian Tomlinson).


2-DL Dime

Cunningham - Pryor - Banta-Cain

Guyton - Mayo

McCourty - Chung - Wilhite - Butler

Meriweather - Sanders

Third down package vs. Bengals.

Third down package vs. @Jets, Banta-Cain and Cunningham lined up in 3-point stance out wide.


Pass Rush Dime

Crable - Wright - Pryor - Banta-Cain


McCourty - Wilhite - Chung - Meriweather - Sanders - Arrington

Bills: Used in 3rd quarter.

Vikings: basically Guyton comes off for an extra DB, usually the third safety.





Steelers Dime






3-4: 97-75-92 96-59-51-95   32-31-36-27

Nickel: 96-75-99-95  51-59 32-31-36-25-27

27-75-99-95 51-59 32-31-36-25-28



3-4: 97-75-92     50-55-51-96       32-31-36-27

Nickel: 95-75-92-96  59-51        32-28-31-36-27

Dime: 95-75-96   59-51        32-28-31-36-25-27



3-4: 75-97-92    96-51-59-50   32-36-25/44 -27

Nickel: 75-97-92    96-51-59    32-25-44-36-27

Dime: 98-75-97-95  44/59-51   32-36-25-31-28-27



3-4: 71-75-92 96-51-59-50 32-31-36-27

Nickel: 95-75-92-98 51-52 32-25-31-36-27

Dime: 95-75-98 51-59 32-28-31-36-25-27

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