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Patriots' patchwork O-line remains effective

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Posted Nov. 23, 2012 @ 3:17 p.m. ET
By Kevin Fishbain

The Patriots have attempted the third-most passes in the NFL (424), and have been sacked the fourth-fewest times (15) this season. That number is impressive in itself, but even more so considering the different offensive line combinations they’ve been forced to use because of injuries.

In the Patriots’ Week 12 win over the Jets, ORT Sebastian Vollmer, who has been playing at a very high level this season, was inactive with back and knee injuries. Second-year OT Marcus Cannon started in his place, and Donald Thomas started at left guard for Logan Mankins (ankle, calf) — it was Thomas' sixth start of the season. The fifth different combination used by the Patriots up front pitched a shutout, allowing zero sacks and only one QB hit against an aggressive Jets defensive front.

This was a unit that has shown no drop-off after losing veterans C Dan Koppen and OG Brian Waters, and having to deal with injuries — C Ryan Wendell and OLT Nate Solder are the only O-linemen to start every game this season.

The unit is succeeding in the “next man up” philosophy in helping protect Tom Brady, who is having a career year. Said Brady following the team’s Week 11 win against the Colts, when both of his starting guards were out: “Well, they’re coached very hard and I think the expectations are for the position, not necessarily for the player, so when Logan’s not in there, you've got to go in there and play like Logan. Hopefully we get healthy at some point, but until then, that’s why there are 53 guys on the roster. Each of those guys can really step in when they need to.”

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