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What the Heck Was Kyle Arrington Doing at Defensive End?

On Sunday's game against the Colts, Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington was benched after the half for giving up massive yardage to WR Reggie Wayne and missing a couple of tackles. He was substituted by Darius Butler who had a fantastic game (notice how Peyton Manning didn't throw to Wayne at the end of the game?). Arrington didn't have a large defensive impact until the Colts' final drive in the 3rd quarter, but it wasn't at his typical cornerback position. Arrington took the field as the sub 4-3 package as the defensive end. What?

In the typical 4-3, the Patriots feature Mike Wright and Vince Wilfork at defensive tackle as the outside linebackers step up as the defensive ends. The Patriots were using Jermaine Cunningham and Rob Ninkovich at left outside linebacker as they stepped up and played left defensive end for most of the game. Tully Banta-Cain would take the right defensive end slot. At the end of the 3rd quarter, the Patriots decided to throw a wrench in their defensive scheme and put Kyle Arrington at the left defensive end slot.

Watch the play here.

You can see Arrington cut inside the right tackle and generate pressure and force Manning to throw the ball away...right to Devin McCourty. So what were the Patriots thinking?

Get my take after the jump!

It's a fact that Peyton Manning has one of the fastest releases in the league. He can recognize coverage and get rid of the ball accordingly. The Patriots were unable to get to Manning with their outside linebackers and realized that Manning was having too much time to throw. As a result, the Patriots switched their slower outside linebackers for the speedy Arrington, hoping that he could generate pressure. It a typical defense, the fastest pass rusher plays right defensive end or right outside linebacker in order to attack the quarterback's blind side, meaning that left tackles are normally the quicker of the tackles. Right tackles are usually the slower, but stronger tackle. As a result, the Speedy Arrington was able to take advantage of the right tackle with a nifty inside move to get towards Manning. Unfortunately, the tackle out-muscled Arrington and pushed him to the ground, but not after the pressure was recognized and the ball released and, consequently, picked off.

While having Arrington at left defensive end in the 4-3 was a nice touch to throw off opposing defenses, the Patriots decided to play with this set defense for most of the 4th quarter, or at least until the Colts brought the score to within 3. Arrington played right defensive end for a portion of the Colts' first touchdown drive and the Colts responded by running directly at him for great yardage gains. On Blair White's touchdown pass, Arrington was flipped back to left defensive end and had no impact.

After having a solid first play at 4-3 defensive end, Arrington started to get pushed around by the right and left tackles and wasn't generating any sort of pressure as he was out-muscled. For some reason, the Patriots kept Arrington on the field, even though he was not having any impact. 

While it was a fun variation in the defense that confused the offensive line, there was no reason for Arrington to be kept in that defensive formation until the Colts were within one score. The initial idea was solid coaching, but keeping Arrington in was a poor decision that almost cost the Patriots the game.