New-Look Pats Front, But 'Boys Won't Copy

This is a copycat league, as they say, and for the last decade there has been no better team to emulate than New England. Going against them for the first time in four years this week, the Cowboys will see a considerable change in the Patriots from their last meeting in 2007.

For the first time in the Bill Belichick era, and the first time since Bill Parcells was head coach years before him, the Pats are operating a 4-3 defense more often than not.

"It certainly is different," Jason Garrett said. "They've been a 3-4, 'okie' team for a long, long time, and that goes back to (Belichick's) days with the Giants a long time ago, and certainly since he's been in New England that has been the base defense that they've played. They've always done a very good job mixing different fronts in during the game."

The Cowboys, of course, became a 3-4 team for the first time in their history back in 2005, when Parcells installed the scheme. His theory then, and a prevailing one in the league now, is that whichever scheme is run by the minority of teams is favorable.

Not only do offenses have less experience against the less-used front, but there will be fewer teams going after the premium players who fit that particular scheme.

Things are beginning to swing back toward 3-4 teams being in the majority in the league, but don't expect the Cowboys to switch to a 4-3 anytime soon.

""There certainly seems to be a trend in recent years for teams to go play some more 3-4 defense," Garrett said. "I think the biggest thing you have to do when you're evaluating what style of defense you want to play is you have to look at the personnel on your team.

"Now, if you're starting from scratch you have a real clean look at it, and you say I want to be a 3-4 guy or I want to be a 4-3 guy. But when you're coming into a new situation, you say, what do these guys have, who are the really good players? Do they fit this scheme better or that scheme better? I have not talked to Coach Belichick about it, but I've got to believe that one of the reasons they're playing some more even defense, 4-3 defense, is because of those two defensive tackles that they have."

New England added Albert Haynesworth this offseason, pairing him with Vince Wilfork in the middle of their line. It's hard to take either of those guys off the field. The Cowboys only have one great defensive tackle at this point, Jay Ratliff.

And with DeMarcus Ware a proven star in the 3-4, the Cowboys are obliged to stay in that scheme for years to come.

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