Defensive snaps: Leaning on Tommy Kelly

ATLANTA -- Snaps played by New England Patriots defenders in Sunday’s 30-23 win against the Atlanta Falcons, while analyzing what it means (as charted in press box, small margin for error):

S Steve Gregory – 76 of 76

DE Chandler Jones – 76 of 76

LB Jerod Mayo – 76 of 76

S Devin McCourty – 76 of 76

DE Rob Ninkovich – 76 of 76

CB Aqib Talib – 76 of 76

CB Alfonzo Dennard – 75 of 76

CB Kyle Arrington – 70 of 76

DT Tommy Kelly – 59 of 76

LB Dont'a Hightower – 49 of 76

DT Joe Vellano – 33 of 76

DE Michael Buchanan – 25 of 76

DT Chris Jones – 20 of 76

CB Logan Ryan – 20 of 76

LB Jamie Collins – 12 of 76

DT Vince Wilfork – 10 of 76

LB Brandon Spikes – 6 of 76

S Duron Harmon – 1 of 76

(Penalties included.)

ANALYSIS: With Wilfork exiting late in the first series, the team’s defensive tackle rotation in his absence is notable, as it reflects how the team might attempt to fill his void. Kelly led the way with 59 snaps as the team relied on him more than it has to this point of the season. Kelly’s previous snap counts were 35, 46 and 40 as he has come out of the game in some sub situations. Meanwhile, Vellano’s 33 snaps were a season high, and fellow rookie Chris Jones’ debut included a higher-than-anticipated total of 20 snaps. … Spikes’ low snap total (6) is reflective of how the Patriots played most of the game in sub packages, and Spikes doesn’t appear to be viewed by the coaching staff as a good fit in a coverage role. Hightower is getting the majority of those linebacker snaps in sub, while top draft pick Collins got his feet wet in the first half, and there looked to be some early growing pains. … Ryan, a rookie, played all 20 of his snaps in the second half, with 19 coming in the dime package, which seemed to be an in-game adjustment aimed at containing tight end Tony Gonzalez. … At cornerback, Dennard was bumped up the depth chart to the No. 2 role, over Arrington, in the base defense. But Arrington was basically a starter as the slot cornerback, because the Patriots were in sub packages for all but six snaps. The one play Dennard missed was the final defensive snap as he had hobbled off.