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Safeties couldn't stay out of harm's way

A look at snaps played by Patriots defenders in the team’s 38-17 loss to the Saints (as charted in the press box, small margin for error):

LB Jerod Mayo – 49 of 50

S Brandon Meriweather – 47 of 50

S Brandon McGowan – 45 of 50

CB Leigh Bodden – 44 of 50

LB Gary Guyton – 44 of 50

CB Darius Butler – 40 of 50

DT Vince Wilfork – 36 of 50

DL Ty Warren – 35 of 50

CB Jonathan Wilhite – 35 of 50

DL Jarvis Green – 29 of 50

OLB/DE Tully Banta-Cain – 28 of 50

DE Derrick Burgess – 26 of 50

OLB Adalius Thomas – 22 of 50

DL Mike Wright – 18 of 50

OLB Pierre Woods – 17 of 50

S Pat Chung – 12 of 50

DL Myron Pryor – 8 of 50

LB/DE Rob Ninkovich – 7 of 50

S James Sanders – 4 of 50

CB Terrence Wheatley – 3 of 50

LB Eric Alexander – 1 of 50

(Snaps don’t include kneeldown at the end of the first half, but do include an offensive holding penalty that technically wasn’t a play.)

ANALYSIS: The Patriots played the majority of the night in a nickel package (five defensive backs), which meant they were willing to sacrifice some bulk against the run to hold up better against the Saints’ main strength, the passing game. The tradeoff didn’t help, however, because they were victims of the big play. The Saints had eight plays of 20 yards or more that totaled 312 yards. This was easily the worst game of the season for safeties Meriweather and McGowan, whose job is to limit those big gainers. The corners also struggled … Wilhite played every snap of the first half before reverting to a nickel role by the second series of the second half as Butler stepped in ... Up front, Wilfork and Warren helped keep the defense competitive against the run while most often flanked by pass-rushing ends Banta-Cain and Burgess. The Patriots needed to generate more consistent push in the four-man rush, but Burgess was quiet ... The 50 snaps were the third fewest played by the defense in a game this season; the season low is 46 (vs. Falcons).