Jerod Mayo's smarts and other nuggets to wrap up the Texans game

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It hasn't been very often this year that we've found ourselves talking about Jerod Mayo. But finally, at the end of Week 14, we're talking about him, which is a very good thing.

Mayo had his best game of the year the other night against the Houston Texans, playing in almost every defensive package the coaching staff put together. According to Bill Belichick, the Texans have more personnel groupings/formations than anyone in the league, so the Patriots defense had to be ready. Mayo was a big reason that they were.

From Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston:

One notable aspect of this chess match for the Patriots was that linebacker Jerod Mayo was part of almost every package, outside of the dime. Mayo played 41 defensive snaps, his second highest total of the year, and it was arguably his best game of the year.

Considering Mayo entered the game averaging 18.5 defensive snaps per contest, the change in his workload was notable.

Part of that was the Patriots playing without linebacker Dont'a Hightower (left knee) for the second week in a row, while the other part was the coaching staff deciding Mayo's smarts were too valuable to keep on the sideline in this type of X's and O's matchup.

Belichick also went on to say that because the Texans' offense is similar to the Patriots', having Mayo for this game was huge based on his instincts and his knowledge of the complexities of the Patriots' defense.

"Jerod did a good job for us, as he always does. He prepares well, has a lot of experience, understands our defense, and is a smart, instinctive player in terms of knowing what the offense is doing. Particularly against a team like Houston, whose offense is similar to ours, Jerod was able to recognize some things and make some adjustments, and disguise some of our defensive looks to make it as hard as possible on the offense. Nobody puts more into it or is better prepared than Mayo."

Speaking of that defense...

Nobody can question the mental toughness and physicality of this year's defense. It's not the Legion of Boom, but it's up there with the league's elite this year. It is a defense that can win them a fifth Super Bowl this year. And it's only going to get better.

Take a look at some of these advanced stats provided by NESN. The defense is on pace to record 52 sacks, which would be the most ever for a Bill Belichick-coached team. His 1992 and 1993 Cleveland Browns each had 48 sacks.

Another huge reason for the Patriots' success on defense is the play of the secondary, which was one of the biggest question marks heading into this season. We knew what Malcolm Butler was capable of and he's shown tons of signs that he can be an elite cornerback. What we didn't expect, though, was Logan Ryan to be playing like Darrelle Revis in his prime.

Ryan was slotted against DeAndre Hopkins, Houston's top receiving threat. With help over the top, Ryan limited Hopkins to only one of his three receptions on the night. As a whole, the defense gave up only 102 yards through the air. No matter who Ryan has been matched up with this season, he has basically shut the opposition down.

And, if you can believe it, both Ryan and Butler have higher Pro Football Focus grades than the legendary Revis this year.

Even though Revis has been slowed by injuries as of late, what Butler and Ryan are doing week in and week out is really, really impressive.

Finally, it appears that center Bryan Stork suffered an ankle injury in the fourth quarter of the Texans game, but it isn't serious.

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