Patriots could finally return to base

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Through three weeks of the NFL season, the Patriots' defense has been in a sub package (5 or more defensive backs) on 166 of 213 snaps (penalties included). That's a 77.9 percent clip.

This will be one of the interesting areas to watch Sunday in Oakland. The Raiders have a solid ground attack and the way they play offensively could have the Patriots in their base defense more often than we've seen to this point. Bill Belichick often talks about the importance of "run fits" -- every player filling his assigned gap(s) to create a wall -- and how the Patriots do that in base against the Raiders figures to be key.

Last week against the spread-it-out Bills, the Patriots were in base just twice, and that was when receiver Brad Smith came on at quarterback.

A look at the season breakdown:


Sub -- 58 of 66

Base -- 2 of 66

Short-yardage -- 6 of 66


Sub -- 49 of 71

Base -- 22 of 71

Short-yardage -- 1 of 71


Sub -- 59 of 76

Base -- 15 of 76

Short yardage -- 2 of 76