Life has to be pretty rough in New England right about now. On Sunday the Patriots suffered a brutal loss to the Cardinals, which revealed that there is a huge problem with their offensive line.
The numbers don’t lie: Against Arizona Tom Brady was sacked four times. The defense delivered six hits on Brady, while recording seven tackles for losses. In other words, the Patriots were dominated at the line of scrimmage. Tom Brady was constantly heckled by the defense, not having enough time to throw accurately. They could never establish a consistent running game, and the entire offense suffered.
While some may argue that the loss of Aaron Hernendez stunted the Patriots offense, the problem is their whole offensive line. Matt Light’s retirement has left the Patriots thin at right tackle, replacement Ben Vollmer is a work in progress, and guard Dan Connolly has been up and down all year. Protection has been an important part of the Patriots’ success over the length of Tom Brady’s career. Whenever the offensive line’s pass protection has been weak, the Patriots have faltered. Teams with good pass rushing can really give the Patriots trouble. Not convinced? Five of the past nine Patriots losses (dating back to the 2009 playoffs) have come from the Jets, Giants, Ravens, and Steelers– that’s no coincidence. The formula for beating Tom Brady is in the pass rush. With back-to-back road games against Baltimore and Buffalo before a showdown with Peyton Manning and Denver’s elite pass rush, all of a sudden the Patriots could be facing a 1-4 record, which will obviously hurt their playoff chances if New York and/or Buffalo can capitalize.
Even if this team coasts through the rest of the regular season, in the playoffs they are most likely going to face a much-improved Baltimore team or the tough Texans, and we haven’t even talked about the juggernaut 49ers team also looming as a potential playoff opponent. Patriots fans have been trained to have super expectations just about every year, but if this team can’t figure out a way to block, they could be in big, big trouble.