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One of four Brady sacks. (Bill Kostroun - AP)
Sunday's game against the New York Jets raised serious questions about the Patriots ability to protect Tom Brady. The first half of the game was highlighted by the four sacks of Brady, which completely stalled the offense for the first 30 minutes. Over the course of the game, the line surrendered 11 quarterback hits, four sacks, and constant pressure on Brady. Is this a sign of a significant weakness? To be blunt, it isn't.

Yes, the line struggled, but it was against their kryptonite in the Rex Ryan fueled Jets defensive front seven. Muhammed Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson are two of the best defensive linemen in the league, and they were in position to attack the Pats weakest position on the line: the guards. With Connolly out, Josh Kline was asked to go against the skilled rushers, and they took advantage.

Rex Ryan had the whole team geared up for this game to be their Super Bowl, and the Jets played like it. The blitz schemes that Rex dialed up were designed to confuse the Patriots offensive line with stunts and delays, and with Connolly out, the line calls were not up to standard, causing miscommunication and wrong assignments. Each of the Patriots' linemen gave up at least half a sack, which shows that it wasn't individuals struggling, but more of a group that struggled to shift blocking responsibilities to one another once stunts or delayed blitzes occurred.



After some clarification and adjustments at halftime, the line was able to keep Brady upright, which in turn allowed the offense to move the ball and put up points. Vollmer and Wendell put up great games, along with Bryan Stork continuing his impressive rookie campaign, while Solder, Kline, and Cannon seemed to struggle the most. All of those who struggled were on the left side of the ball where Connolly would normally play, indicating his absence could have made an impact there.

When it comes to playing teams in the AFC East, each team is built to beat the Patriots, which includes getting defensive lines to get after Brady. The Jets are the prime example of that. In reality, the Patriots will not likely face the type of personnel, the extensive defensive game plan, with the coaching ability of Rex Ryan until possibly the Super Bowl. Yes, the line was exposed at times, but going forward, with a healthy Connolly, the line shouldn't be a terrible concern.

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Adam Bogdan 12/22/2014 06:44:00 PM Edit
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