Tom Brady has spent his career making the New England Patriots look good, and no group has benefited from having him under center as much as the offensive line. This year, the big guys up front have struggled to protect Brady and failed to make holes for the backs in the running game.
The spotlight was on the New England offensive line this week when they faced off against the Cincinnati Bengals and their dominant front seven. That front seven, especially the four defensive lineman, racked up four sacks and had their way with the Patriots’ offense from the first snap of the game. They had constant pressure in Brady’s face, making him either take sacks or throw quicker than he would have wanted.
Brady struggled all game, completing only 18-of-38 passes for less than 200 yards. He was under pressure all day, including the crucial third down play near the end of the fourth quarter, after Giovani Bernard handed the Patriots a golden opportunity with just minutes left in the game. Instead of taking advantage of it, like he had done so many times in his illustrious career, Brady threw two catchable balls then was sacked on third down.
The lack of playmakers at receiver and running back has been the main storyline for the team this year. While it is true, they don’t have receivers who make plays; it’s a rare occurrence this year that Brady has the time in the pocket to give them a chance.
This game was always going to be particularly tough on the offensive line, as the Bengals have one of the most explosive, aggressive pass rushes in the league. They get after the quarterback better than any team west of Seattle.
If the Patriots don’t find a way to improve the play on the offensive line, they’re going to find themselves continuing to struggle to put up points.