Tom Brady’s hurt. He’s not expected to miss any time, but, considering how often he’s been hit, the fact that he's hurt shouldn’t come as a surprise. Brady has been under siege, especially these last few weeks, absorbing far too many big shots, even for someone who’s quite adept at minimizing the damage.
Many fingers have been pointed in Nate Solder’s direction, and on Tuesday the Patriots left tackle admitted that he’s struggling.
“I haven’t had a lot of great plays,” he said when I asked, adding “I’ve had some bad plays and I have to minimize those and start playing good and doing what I’m capable of doing, playing with this group and just improving every week.”
Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels wouldn’t single out Solder during Monday’s conference call; both pointed to the entire offensive unit needing to play each play together. They’re right. It’s been Solder on one play, then Marcus Cannon on the next. The interior offensive line has also had issues as times -- just go back to the Texans game -- and backup tight end Dwayne Allen was exposed a couple of times as well during the recent Thursday night game in Tampa.
Brady has been sacked 16 times this year and hit 19 more times by my count. If you’re keeping score at home, Cannon has surrendered four sacks, Solder three, Joe Thuney and David Andrews a pair each and Shaq Mason -- the best of the offensive line by far this season -- just once. A couple of those sacks belong to Brady himself for not recognizing the free rusher.
Regardless, the bottom line is Number 12 has been on the ground far too often.
“We definitely have to protect him better,” said running back James White. “We haven’t been doing a great job. Everybody as a whole, we got to do a better job with protection, [have] everybody be on the same page and just [block] as long as possible to keep that guy off the ground.”
“Always, always want keep the quarterback clean,” said Allen. “Guys make plays, you know, but the biggest thing for us is to keep Tom clean.”
Solder expressed concern, saying, “We hate to see him get hit. We hate to see him get hit,” he repeated for emphasis. “Keeping him clean, keeping him upright, that’s our goal every week.”
Despite a highly regarded and well-paid defensive line, this weekend’s opponent, the New York Jets, have struggled getting to the QB, with just a half-dozen sacks and 17 total hits according to the analytic website, Pro Football Focus. That should give you some confidence, but until this group of offensive linemen, tight ends and backs sharpens their play, Brady is at risk, and the bullseye on him grows with news of the injury.