Ryan Wendell, Bryan Stork, Dan Connolly and the rest of the offensive line have protected Tom Brady well of late. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
FOXBORO — After Week 4’s blowout loss to Kansas City, the Patriots offense ranked 24th in the NFL averaging 20 points a game. After Week 8’s blowout win over the Bears, the Patriots offense now ranks third in the NFL averaging 29.8 points per game.
One of the biggest reasons why is the familiarity the offensive line now has with one another.
“Those guys have really dealt with a lot of change,” quarterback Tom Brady said before practice on Wednesday refercing to the unit getting a new coach in Dave DeGuglielmo after Dante Scarnecchia retired after 32 years in the NFL following last season.
“This year, it started back in the offseason, and [they] have really worked through that through training camp. And then different players have kind of come and gone and been injured from the start of the season, before the start of the season — with Logan [Mankins] and then being able to really adjust to that.”
Even though the Patriots have used three different starting offensive lines during the four-game win streak due to concussions for Bryan Stork and Dan Connolly, they have continued to rotate players in and out even within games, so everyone is ready to step in at any time and be on the same page as players who have been starting every week.
“I think those guys are really taking it as a challenge of the mental toughness,” Brady added. “At this point, [they've] really settled into kind of the group that they are and the group they want to be. They’re playing with a lot of toughness. They’re playing with a lot of commitment to what their coach is asking them to do. We’ve had some growing pains that we’re all trying to get used to earlier in the year, but I think we’re playing at a much better level.”
Although sacks are sometimes overrated when measuring the success or failure of an offensive line, Brady was sacked nine times in the first four games of the season, compared to only three the last four games. Sunday marked the first time Brady was not sacked in a game since Week 4 last year against the Falcons.
Brady has also been getting more time in the pocket to throw, which has allowed for the playbook to be opened up and not having to worry about Brady getting the ball out quickly to avoid pressure.
By our numbers, Brady had the most time to throw from snap to release of the season two weeks ago against the Jets – an average of 2.58 seconds. Sunday against the Bears, he averaged 1.99 seconds from snap to release, the second-lowest of the season besides 1.96 seconds against Kansas City, but there was one major difference.
Against Kansas City on 17-of-24 plays (71 percent) Brady took less than two seconds to get rid of the ball. Against the Bears Brady took less than two seconds on just 15-of-35 plays (43 percent).
“It’s great communication — I think that’s really the key is having everybody on the same page and trusting each other,” Brady said. “Offensive lines, typically the longer they play together the better they get because they do develop a lot of trust in the guy next to them.
“The offensive line really is a metaphor for an offense and a team. Everyone has to complement each other. You’ve got to trust that the guy next to you is going to do his job because if he doesn’t and you don’t trust it, then it’s hard for you to do your job. And I think those guys have built a lot of trust in each other over the last eight weeks to the point now where they can go out and be aggressive and be really confident in what they’re doing, and what they’re teammates are doing.”
Brady’s individual numbers have also spiked the last four games, as he is 100-for-144 (69 percent) passing, for 1,268 yards, with 14 touchdowns and zero interceptions. This is coming after over the first four games when Brady was 81-of-137 (59 percent), for 791 yards, with just four touchdowns and two interceptions. It’s also no surprise the Patriots are 4-0 in their last four games outscoring opponents 158-87.
Now at the midway point in the year, the second half will be much more difficult as they will be facing some of the best teams in the NFL in the Broncos, Colts, Lions, Packers, Chargers all in the next five weeks. With a schedule like that they will need Brady and the offense to continue to be clicking on all cylinders.
“This is really when it all matters,” Brady said. “We’re coming into the most meaningful part of the season and we play some of the best teams so we’ll see what we’re made of.”