When the Patriots have had their best performances this season, it has come when the O-line is playing like the veteran unit it is. When New England struggled in a Week Eight loss to the Steelers, the front line played poorly. It was penalized four times, and the running game produced only 43 yards.
The Patriots have always been good at responding, and the O-line is no different. This unit lost C Dan Koppen in the first game of the season and was without ORT Sebastian Vollmer for nearly half the season. Like most positions on the club, the Pats were able to plug in replacements and keep moving the football well. The versatile Dan Connolly has helped the transition.
"Dan Connolly has done a great job communicating on the field," starting ORG Brian Waters told PFW.
Waters is one of those new pieces to the puzzle. He got thrust into the lineup when Connolly had to move to center. Waters, who spent 11 seasons with the Chiefs, had to learn the Patriots' complex offense quickly.
"It was definitely fast-paced. The coaching staff and players did a great job helping me catch up as fast as possible without slowing down the process," Waters said. The Patriots signed him on Sept. 4, giving him just over a week to learn the offense.
"I'm still catching up, day by day, but I was able to grasp it because I had a very little understanding of the offense from my previous team," he said.
Waters has played well, especially considering he had to expedite his learning curve of the offense. He has been flagged only twice this season and has yet to give up a sack.
The O-line, though, has had its struggles of late, as Tom Brady has been sacked 10 times in the last three games after being sacked only four times in the first four games. Waters acknowledged that the unit had too many penalties and "too many mental errors" in the loss to the Steelers. "We didn't finish plays like we wanted to," he said.
We saw in the wins over the Jets and Raiders some of the big holes being made by Waters, OLG Logan Mankins and TE Rob Gronkowski. That will need to continue going forward to prove the Patriots are not one-dimensional. When asked about those claims, Waters responded in the "Patriot way," saying, "I don't pay much attention to it. I pay attention to the job at hand, and this week that's going to be the Giants."
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