Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 10/21/13
All season for the Patriots, the mindset seems to be “next man up.” That’s how it went, yet again, for New England on Sunday as the team was missing Aqib Talib in the secondary. In his place, Alfonzo Dennard took over as the de facto No. 1 cornerback, while Logan Ryan got the biggest boost in playing time. Dennard has been a stud all season, so it was no surprise to see him give up just two catches on seven targets for 23 yards. He also had a gorgeous pass breakup, as seen above, which came at a key time in the game on second and 11 as the Jets were driving in the fourth quarter. The past three weeks, Dennard has given up just four catches on 12 targets for 68 yards. Those are some pretty stellar numbers for a former seventh-round pick. If it wasn’t Dennard, Devin McCourty was probably the team’s MVP on Sunday. McCourty made some extremely impressive plays as he helped out the cornerbacks over the top. His key plays came on a pass breakup in the endzone, and when the safety forced a pass interference penalty, also in the end zone. Kyle Arrington got sidelined on defense after struggling a bit in the first quarter and 1/2. It was unclear whether that was for injury or performance reasons. Ryan played well in his starter’s share of snaps. His biggest play, of course, was a 79-yard pick-six touchdown. Duron Harmon continues to impresse when he comes in for McCourty or Steve Gregory at safety. He took one bad route on an incomplete deep pass, but also had a very impressive deflected pass. Dont’a Hightower didn’t struggle in coverage nearly as much as some seemed to think he did. Check out this week’s coverage charting stats below. Kyle Arrington: 4-4, 55 yards, TD Logan Ryan: 3-5, 55 yards, INT for TD Dont’a Hightower: 2-5, 33 yards Alfonzo Dennard: 2-7, 23 yards, PBU Marquice Cole: 2-3, 19 yards Brandon Spikes: 1-2, 17 yards Steve Gregory: 1-3, 8 yards, PBU, PI Duron Harmon: 0-1, PBU Devin McCourty: 1-2, -2 yards, PBU, PI against Obviously Talib is the star of the secondary, but Dennard is allowing just a 44.1-percent completion percentage. That’s very good. McCourty has barely been targeted in seven games. He’s thrown at less than twice a game. Harmon hasn’t been picked on either, despite being a rookie. There’s a good reason Bill Belichick appears to be trying to get him into games. He’s been a solid back-end player. Check out the season coverage stats below. Dennard: 19-43, 334 yards, TD, INT Arrington: 22-39, 280 yards, 2 TDs, INT, holding penalty Mayo: 14-27, 146 yards Gregory: 10-19, 139 yards, TD, pass interference penalty Talib: 9-29, 139 yards, 4 INTs, pass interference penalty Ryan: 8-15, 120 yards, TD Hightower: 13-21, 113 yards McCourty: 6-9, 86 yards, TD Spikes: 3-6, 49 yards, INT Collins: 4-5, 42 yards Cole: 2-3, 19 yards Harmon: 1-2, 3 yards Ninkovich: 1-2, 2 yards Have a question for Doug Kyed? Send it to him via Twitter at @DougKyedNESN or send it here. Filed under: Doug Kyed, New England Patriots, Top Stories

This article first appeared on NESN.com and was syndicated with permission.

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