Good news everyone! Unlike the defense, which is busy puking on it’s own shoes at the moment, the New England Patriots offensive line is not currently on pace to be historically bad - just, um, normal levels of bad.
Wait, that’s actually not good news at all. My bad.
While we’ve all been raging at the defense and their communication issues that seem to be something like the scene in Pineapple Express where Dale and Saul have the “What do you mean, the battery’s dead?” conversation, the big boys up front have quietly been putting together one of the worst seasons in the NFL so far, and given where offensive line play’s at in the league now, that’s almost impressive.
Marcus Cannon’s seemingly overnight transformation from almost-bust to very, very rich Pro Bowl mauler seemed to be the sigh of relief New England needed last year. They’d have both tackle positions locked up with solid players at least through the end of this season, and then Dante Scarnecchia can keep working on the young guns like grizzly-bear run-smasher Shaq Mason.
Thanks to injuries and a concussion for Cannon and some truly bafflingly inconsistent play from left tackle Nate Solder, the Patriots offensive line has let Tom Brady get pressured an absurd 60 times through the first four weeks of the season, according to Pro Football Focus. I should’ve known better than to read that PFF article right before bed after the Yankees clinched a spot in the ALDS, now I’m just pissed off all around.
To give you a rough idea of how bad 60 pressures over four games is, based on our boy Evan Lazar’s snap count reports, the Patriots are averaging 73 offensive snaps per game, which obviously include both running plays and passing plays. Giving up pressure on 15 of those snaps (on average) every game when you’re passing on about 60% of your offensive snaps means that Brady’s feeling the heat on 43.8% of the Patriots’ passing plays, which, if you’re not a math person, is almost HALF of his passes.
Here’s what PFF had to say about the line’s performance so far:
PFF Elite pass blocking efficiency: 72.4
The surprise entry this low on the list, the New England Patriots offensive line has been far more porous than it was in 2016. They have allowed 60 total pressures, the fourth-most in the NFL, with Tom Brady taking an uncharacteristically long time in the pocket on average (2.58 seconds per throw).
Sure, part of that is New England’s newfound love for slinging the ball deep, where plays are going to take longer to develop and inherently be more dangerous. Just ask Ben Roethlisberger.
Counterpoint: check out the teams that ranked below the Patriots in PFF’s offensive line grades.
27. Chicago Bears
29. Detroit Lions
30. Seattle Seahawks
32. Houston Texans
The one area where we can give the Pats offensive line a bit of a break, aside from the injury thing, is they’ve played two of the best defenses in football in the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans, the latter of which has arguably the best front-seven in the game at the moment. That Texans team, of course, is the same one that forced three turnovers, sacked Brady twice, and hit him at least five more times in the playoffs last year, so that’s just a ferocious defense, gotta give credit where credit is due.
Ironically, New England goes into Tampa Bay this week for Thursday Night Football to play a Bucs team that has one sack to their name.
Not like their best defensive player has one sack, the entire Bucs defense has one sack on the season.
Could be just what the doctor ordered.