The players lining up on defense for New England have changed throughout the season. Injuries and inconsistency forced backups to play key roles, some with little preparation.
Fortunately for the Patriots, Jerod Mayo is still around.
The defensive captain directs teammates to the spots where they should line up and is the Patriot most likely to make the tackle. He's had more than 100 of them in each of his four NFL seasons, the first Patriot to do that, and led the team each year.
"You always want to be consistent," the middle linebacker said. "You always want to be depended on."
With a bye week before the top-seeded Patriots play their divisional playoff game on Jan. 14, Mayo and his teammates have more time to let their bruises heal and work together in practice.
Except for two games that he missed with a left knee injury that was expected to keep him out longer, Mayo has been a mainstay in the middle.
He made 103 tackles on a team that allowed the second most yards in the NFL, an average of 411.1 per game. With three defensive linemen, three linebackers and three defensive backs on injured reserve, he's had to coordinate a shifting cast.