Snaps: Shake-up at defensive end

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – A look at snaps played by Patriots defenders in the team’s win over the Texans, and analyzing what it means (small margin for error):

S Devin McCourty – 78 of 78

LB Jerod Mayo – 78 of 78

CB Alfonzo Dennard – 77 of 78

S Steve Gregory – 77 of 78

CB Aqib Talib – 77 of 78

DE Rob Ninkovich -- 76 of 78

DL Vince Wilfork – 61 of 78

LB Brandon Spikes – 58 of 78

DE Justin Francis – 49 of 78

LB Dont’a Hightower – 47 of 78

DT Brandon Deaderick – 39 of 78

CB Kyle Arrington – 35 of 78

DE Chandler Jones – 32 of 78

DL Kyle Love – 32 of 78

DE Trevor Scott – 19 of 78

S Tavon Wilson – 16 of 78

DE Jermaine Cunningham – 6 of 78

S Patrick Chung – 1 of 78

(Penalties included; also includes 2-point conversion.)

ANALYSIS: In a win-or-go-home game like this, one gets a clearer picture of how players are viewed by the coaching staff because the time for managing players’ health is less of a consideration and it’s all hands on deck. Along those lines, the defensive end rotation stands out. The Patriots started with Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones at end, and looked primed to go wire to wire with that combination, with both staying on the field on third down. The top backup was rookie free agent Justin Francis, as he came on as a sub rusher over Trevor Scott and Jermaine Cunningham. That was a role previously held by Cunningham, but his late-season suspension opened the door for Francis and now his role has been diminished. Jones didn’t play in the second half because of an ankle injury, which is when Francis’ numbers really spiked. … The lone snaps not played by CB Alfonzo Dennard, S Steve Gregory and CB Aqib Talib came at the goal-line when the Patriots went big. That goal-line package was also the lone snap played by S Patrick Chung, who was passed over as the dime back in favor of rookie S Tavon Wilson. … At LB, Brandon Spikes and Dont’a Hightower split duties in sub packages, with Spikes staying on the field a bit more. ... CB Kyle Arrington played the slot, with Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard back in the starting roles.