The Patriots made a statement Sunday night, dominating the Atlanta Falcons to the tune of a 23-7 blowout in which Atlanta’s lone score occurred with just 4:09 left to play in the game. While the defensive effort made most headlines, it was the unheralded work of perhaps the Patriots most important unit, the offensive line, that deserves their share of the credit for the victory.
After the Tampa Bay game, I wrote about the Patriots offensive line struggles and the essential nature of protecting Brady, and it is clear that they red what I wrote, because we have seen a marked improvement from the unit in the two games since. In the first five games, Brady was sacked 16 times, which already eclipsed his sack total from last season ( just 15). The offensive line conceded three sacks Week 1, two Week 2, five Week 3, three Week 4, and three Week 5, good for an average of 3.2 sacks allowed, and 3.4 quarterbacks hits allowed, in that span. After Week 5, the Patriots were on pace to allow 51 sacks on the season, which would set a record for total sacks in a season with Brady under center.
However, in the past two weeks, we have witnessed a profound rise in the performance of the offensive line, led by the interior line, particularly center David Andrews (Pro Football Focus’s 3rd ranked center) and guard Shaq Mason (Pro Football Focus’s 5th ranked guard). Against the Jets last week, the Patriots did not yield a sack for the first time all year, and in Sunday’s contest with the Falcons, the Patriots did not allow a quarterback hit, also for the first time all year. Brady was sacked twice Sunday night, but one can be attributed to a communication breakdown between Brady and his line, not an offensive lineman being beat by a rusher.