Looking closer at the defensive plan

The Patriots turned in one of their better defensive performances in Sunday's 39-26 win over the Steelers, although it wasn't as if they did anything out of the ordinary.

"You have to give them credit," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "I don't think they did anything to confuse us or anything like that. I think they just flat out beat us."

The plan, which included more blitzing from defensive backs, was actually quite simple when looking at how the Patriots matched up.

1. Base defense. When the Steelers played with two receivers, the Patriots countered in their base 3-4 alignment. This package primarily had Brandon Deaderick (DE), Vince Wilfork (NT) and Ron Brace (DE) up front, with Jermaine Cunningham/Rob Ninkovich at OLB and Brandon Spikes and Jerod Mayo at ILB.

2. Nickel package. When the Steelers played with three receivers, the Patriots often countered in their 4-2-5 nickel. This package had Tully Banta-Cain/Shawn Crable as the primary ends, Mike Wright/Gerard Warren as the primary interior rushers, Jerod Mayo/Gary Guyton as the linebackers, with safety James Sanders the extra defensive back.

3. Dime package. The Patriots also played a 3-2-6 dime package at times. They took out one inside rusher -- usually Warren -- and added rookie safety Sergio Brown.

From an individual perspective, defensive lineman Mike Wright delivered a strong performance to spark the pass rush as an interior rusher in the nickel and dime. With the Patriots getting ahead early, it created more opportunities to rush the passer and Wright won his fair share of one-on-one battles.

"I thought Mike Wright had a real good day rushing the passer," coach Bill Belichick said Monday. "He was disruptive. We also had some pressure off the edge at times, which is always good when you combine inside and outside pressure."