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Recent posts by Kevin Fishbain
Through three games, the Patriots' offensive line was good enough to make you forget they were without two-time Pro Bowl OG Logan Mankins. With the O-line allowing just two sacks in those three games while helping the Patriots score the most points in the NFL, it was not out of the question to think they didn't even need Mankins should he return from his holdout.
Well, Logan, it looks like you're needed.
In the past three games, albeit all victories, the Patriots' front line has allowed 10 sacks, including a season-high four to the Chargers on Sunday. Head coach Bill Belichick made his first non-injury-related substitution along the line this season, replacing OLG Dan Connolly (Mankins' replacement) with Ryan Wendell for the second half. Connolly still played fullback in short-yardage situations.
Veteran OLT Matt Light has been victimized multiple times, most notably giving up a strip-sack to Jets OLB Jason Taylor in the Pats' lone loss. The right side of the line has held up well for the most part, but a closer look tells you that it's when, not so much how often, the sacks occur that should be a concern for the Pats.
Through six games, the Patriots have allowed eight sacks in the red zone. That is the most in the league. In fact, it's three more sacks than the second team on the list, the Rams, who have allowed five. Need more insult to injury? Ten teams have yet to allow a red-zone sack this season.
All four of San Diego's sacks of Brady came in the red zone on Sunday on three separate drives. On one of the drives, the Patriots still managed a TD, but on the other drives they had to settle for field goals. After LB Rob Ninkovich recovered a fumble and took it to San Diego's eight-yard line, Brady was sacked on back-to-back plays.
This is a disturbing stat for a team that needs to rely on its offense to win football games. With the 30th-ranked passing defense in the NFL, the Pats are going to have to win some shootouts and take pressure off the "D." Brady has the weapons and skills to take advantage of red-zone opportunities, but if he continues to find himself on his back, points will remain off the board.
With the Vikings' pass rush coming to town on Sunday, the Patriots better hope to have their O-line issues from the past three games fixed, and they need to realize the utter importance in protecting Brady inside the red zone.