Niners' Defensive Changes Catch Belichick's Eye

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) - The San Francisco 49ers' unusual nickel defense scheme will get its biggest test Sunday when the Niners take on the New England Patriots.

The Patriots have spent their bye week thinking about ways to exploit the strategy, which is known as the Big Sub.

The Big Sub puts four defensive linemen and five defensive backs
on the field.

Coach Mike Nolan says it's a way to stop long-gaining plays. He says it should also help control the run and rush the passer.

But the numbers don't reflect Nolan's faith so far. San Francisco is in the bottom half of the NFL in most defensivestatistical categories, giving up 97 points and nearly 336 yards per game in the process.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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