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Patriots' second-half review: Tight coverage

Picked-up pieces from second-half review of the Patriots’ 51-23 win over the Bears:

1. Dominique Easley's sack with 8:07 remaining in the third quarter is a good example of tight man coverage helping produce a sack. On the defensive right side, cornerbacks Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and Logan Ryan are blanketing their assignments, while safety Patrick Chung is all over tight end Martellus Bennett on the opposite side and linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower double running back Matt Forte out of the backfield. Quarterback Jay Cutler had nowhere to throw, and the rush ultimately got there after the stopwatch exceeded four seconds. It wasn’t as if Easley cleanly beat left tackle Jermon Bushrod, but with his motor never stopping, and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork doing his part to force the issue with a good rush to the outside before looping back in, it was a case where the coverage was the catalyst to produce the sack.

2. The Patriots led 38-7 at the half, so one of the first things that stood out as they received the opening kickoff of the half was that they put Tom Brady in the shotgun and went with empty formations on all six plays to score a touchdown. That’s keeping the foot on the accelerator.

3. Of the six plays in which the Patriots went empty on that drive, five came with the two-TE grouping of Rob Gronkowski and Tim Wright. When an opponent matches with a base defense against that grouping, as the Bears did, the Patriots have had success in recent weeks by spreading things out and attacking.

4. One potential concern to monitor for the Patriots is cornerback Brandon Browner and penalty flags. He’s been penalized four times in two games, as he was all over Bennett on his remarkable 20-yard touchdown (defensive pass interference was declined). Browner said after the game that he didn’t plan to change his style of play. There has to be a balance struck between smart, physical play and physical play that will hurt the Patriots.

5. The Patriots continue to rotate Marcus Cannon into the game at both right and left tackle, as he played 34 of 73 offensive snaps. That decision could affect right tackle Sebastian Vollmer’s ability to fully cash in on playing-time incentives in his contract ($1 million for 80 percent of the snaps and $2 million for 90 percent of the snaps). Coach Bill Belichick explained Monday that he feels Cannon deserves the time.

Vollmer’s playing time this season

at Dolphins: 85 of 86

at Vikings: 65 of 65

vs. Raiders: 75 of 75

at Chiefs: 39 of 50

vs. Bengals: 76 of 86

at Bills: 60 of 71

vs. Jets: 54 of 57

vs. Bears: 52 of 73

Total: 506 of 563 (89.8 percent)