With the Patriots season coming to an end on Sunday, it's time to take a look back at the team and break down their performance by position. We'll start up front this week with the offensive linemen. The group played well for most of the season, allowing Tom Brady to be sacked only 32 times, good for ninth in the NFL.
New England was in the middle of the pack when it comes to run blocking, averaging four yards per carry. It's no surprise that the Patriots had the most success when running to the left side, behind Matt Light and Logan Mankins. The Pats managed 21 rushes of 10 yards or more when running to the left side, compared to just five rushes of 10+ yards up the middle, and 13 to the right side. Mankins was a Pro Bowler this year.
One thing that has gone overlooked for much of the season is the fact that the Patriots lost their starting Center to an ankle injury in week one against the Dolphins. Dan Koppen never returned to the team, and New England converted guard Dan Connoly to Center. Connoly also suffered an injury this year in a Monday Night blowout victory over Kansas City, forcing third string Center Ryan Wendell to start. Despite these injuries to one of the most important positions on the field, the big guys still held their ground and protected Tom Terrific all season long.
The addition of veteran and future hall of famer Brian Waters at right guard was one of the more important offseason moves by New England last summer after the lockout. Waters made the pro bowl for the sixth time in his career this season. Much was made about the pass rush of the New York Giants heading into Super Bowl Sunday, but the Pats didn't allow a sack until late in the third quarter. Waters has stated that he is considering retirement, and rumor has it that the Pats may allow Koppen to walk as an unrestricted free agent. If either, or both of these scenarios take place, New England will have some holes to fill. However, Waters has stated that if he doesn't retire, he will remain with New England.
Pass Blocking: B+
Run Blocking: B-