Patriots

Brady's feeling the pain of inadequate protection

Brady's feeling the pain of inadequate protection

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. 

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Quinn hoping Falcons won't be focused on 28-3 this week

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Quinn hoping Falcons won't be focused on 28-3 this week

FOXBORO -- They say you can't live in the past. But for the Falcons, that may be easier said than done this week. 

“Well, for sure we’ve talked about it," Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said of Super Bowl LI. "The biggest thing we’ve said was you don’t get to go replay games. You don’t get to go replay the Super Bowl. We lost last week and we don’t get to go replay the Miami game. One of the sayings we have is, 'The only fight that matters is the one you’re in.' 

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"That is where our focus is, and even deeper than that, our focus is for us to play at our best. We’re not there yet. That is what we’re out chasing. We don’t want to go into the rematch world because we learned our lessons and you don’t get to apply them until you’re back in them again. If we keep looking back in the rear view, we’re not going to be where we want to be."

The reality is, though, Super Bowl LI and New England's 25-point comeback win is going to be part of Atlanta's preparations this week.

Both Bill Belichick and Dan Quinn have said at different points that they'll look at that game because the personnel on both sides is so similar. Though the teams aren't constructed exactly the same, and though the Falcons are operating under a new offensive coordinator, last season's finale still has value . . . as difficult as it may be for some to re-live it.

“It’s a big part [of the preparations], and here’s why," Quinn said. "When you face a team for a second time in less than a year, it’s almost like, I am not going to call it a division game, but you have more familiarity than when you don’t. You go back to look how they featured the players in their roles last year and go back to look at some of the roles for this year.

"The players also have some familiarity with one another. 'How to a guard this guy? I have to make sure my leverage is right when I tackle this player. When I am in press coverage this release worked, this one wasn’t as effective.' There’s definitely familiarity. We definitely looked back at that game, but also the games from this year, too. That is pretty normal operating procedure when we’re playing a team. We may go back a year or even two years if the coaching staff is the same to see if there’s some philosophical scheme and plays that they are really comfortable with."