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Defensive snaps: Wilson slides back

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Snaps played by Patriots’ defenders in the team’s 37-31 win over the Bills, while analyzing what it might mean (small margin for error):

LB Jerod Mayo – 81 of 81

S Devin McCourty – 81 of 81

DE Rob Ninkovich – 81 of 81

CB Kyle Arrington – 79 of 81

CB Alfonzo Dennard – 79 of 81

S Steve Gregory – 79 of 81

DL Vince Wilfork – 77 of 81

DE Chandler Jones – 68 of 81

CB Marquice Cole – 62 of 81

LB Brandon Spikes -- 61 of 81

DL Jermaine Cunningham – 41 of 81

DL Kyle Love – 33 of 81

LB Dont’a Hightower – 30 of 81

S Tavon Wilson – 14 of 81

DT Brandon Deaderick – 13 of 81

DE Justin Francis – 12 of 81

(Including penalties.)

ANALYSIS: The coaching staff made its view of the safety spot clear, with Steve Gregory playing every snap but two (on the goal-line) in his return to the lineup, and rookie Tavon Wilson -- a starter for the previous four games -- demoted to the dime back role. … Devin McCourty was at safety for the third game in a row as starter Patrick Chung remained out with injury (shoulder/hamstring). … It looked as if the coaching staff entered the game with a set rotation in mind at right defensive end, with Justin Francis spelling Chandler Jones for the start of the third series of each half (6 snaps apiece). That could be a proactive approach to managing Jones and the so-called "rookie wall" as we get deeper into the season. … While there was a rotation on the right side, Rob Ninkovich played every snap on the left side, as the team was without backup Trevor Scott (hamstring). … The Patriots rotated run-stuffing DL Kyle Love and pass-rushing DL Jermaine Cunningham based on what personnel the Bills had on the field. … The 62 snaps for slot CB Marquice Cole were easily a season-high, as one could view him as being rewarded for a strong performance against the Rams on Oct. 28. Entering the game, Cole had played a total of 41 defensive snaps for the entire season. … LBs Brandon Spikes and Dont’a Hightower split time in the nickel package in the first half, but stopped that rotation in the second half, going solely with Spikes. That seemed to be an acknowledgement of Hightower’s struggles in the game. ... The 81 snaps were the second most played by the defense this season (behind 84 vs. Jets in overtime game), and reflected struggles on third down (Bills were 7 of 11) and fourth down (Bills were 1 of 1). Buffalo owned the time-of-possession advantage by stringing together long drives. … Vince Wilfork’s competitiveness shined through at the end of the game. As the Bills were driving for a potential game-winning touchdown and extra point, the coaching staff sent Brandon Deaderick to replace Wilfork, but Wilfork waved him off. After the game, Wilfork explained that he was tired but felt like if he came off the field, he would have been letting the team down. He ended up playing every snap in the second half.