Defensive snaps: Spikes' comeback

CINCINNATI -- Snaps played by New England Patriots defenders in their 13-6 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, while analyzing what it means (as charted in press box, small margin for error):

DE Chandler Jones – 69 of 69

LB Jerod Mayo – 69 of 69

S Devin McCourty – 69 of 69

DE Rob Ninkovich – 69 of 69

CB Aqib Talib – 68 of 69

CB Alfonzo Dennard – 62 of 69

LB Brandon Spikes – 57 of 69

DT Joe Vellano – 57 of 69

S Steve Gregory – 55 of 69

DT Tommy Kelly – 41 of 69

LB Dont'a Hightower – 37 of 69

CB Kyle Arrington – 36 of 69

DT Chris Jones – 35 of 69

LB Jamie Collins – 10 of 69

S Duron Harmon – 9 of 69

DE Michael Buchanan – 6 of 69

CB Logan Ryan – 4 of 69

DE Jake Bequette – 3 of 69

LB Dane Fletcher – 3 of 69

(Penalties included; kneel-down at end of first half not included.)

ANALYSIS: The most significant change from last week was the inclusion of linebacker Brandon Spikes in sub packages, as his overall snap total (57) spiked considerably. Spikes had averaged 22.5 snaps per game through the first four weeks and was on for just six plays last week versus the Falcons. As ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi had forecasted, Spikes was utilized on several run blitzes into the middle of the line as part of the strategy of accounting for defensive tackle Vince Wilfork’s absence. Spikes' increase in playing time had a trickle-down effect on Dont’a Hightower, whose snaps were down from the norm. Hightower has a hamstring injury, which could also have been a factor in that switch. ... In sub packages, the Patriots got away from their three-DE grouping and mostly stayed with two defensive tackles, which could have been another result of Wilfork’s absence. Perhaps in losing Wilfork’s run-stopping abilities in the three-DE package (he’s almost the equivalent of two defensive tackles), the coaching staff didn’t feel as comfortable utilizing it. … For the second straight week, Alfonzo Dennard has been the second cornerback in the base defense over Kyle Arrington. Dennard also hobbled off at the end of the game and didn’t finish for the second week in a row. His status bears watching. … DT Tommy Kelly’s right knee injury, which knocked him out for the final two drives of the game -- in addition to parts of the drive before that -- contributed to rookie Joe Vellano playing the most snaps at the position. The Patriots will likely seek reinforcements at the position, via either the practice squad (Marcus Forston, A.J. Francis) or elsewhere. … DE Jake Bequette and LB Dane Fletcher’s playing time came in goal-line packages. … Rookie safety Duron Harmon came on for one series in the first half in place of Steve Gregory.