New England Patriots: Twin Towers

Starting offensive tackles Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder of the New England Patriots

Dominance up front, it’s a hard thing to quantify as a casual observer when speaking of offensive line play. Examining the start the New England Patriots are off to in 2013 represent just that. Book-end tackles Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer have yet to allow a single solitary sack against here at the quarter pole.  When considering all the injuries the Patriots have endured to begin this campaign what transpired on Sunday Night Football in the Georgia Dome was pretty impressive.

You figure, a road game in Primetime against a team that is 34-7 in its last 41 home contests, in a time slot that demands the fan base to be very loud and disruptive for visiting offenses might cause at least one communication issue resulting in a sack. Which stands to reason why this should have presented enough of a road block to prevent a fourth straight win for Brady and company… or so we think?

The smart money says a Matt Ryan led Falcons team in a must win scenario is a no brainer.  They certainly won’t fall to 1-3 in a game that requires their best? Well, so much for that. The final score indicated it was close 30-23, and while Atlanta did have the opportunity to possibly send this game to overtime, they indeed had no business being in that position.

A controversial 38 yard pass interference call set up a Falcon touchdown to cut the Patriots 17 point lead  from 30-13 to 30-20 with just under seven minutes left on the clock, before that play there was this… a replay system that went down while coach Bill Belichick was trying to challenge a would be sack that in turn would have put stress on Atlanta to covert a 3rd and very long. Or better yet, the botched onside kick recovery by Zach Sudfeld  that took the dirty birds off of life support and gave them new life.

The recovery rate in the NFL for those kicks is extremely low, had Sudfeld or one of the Patriots just fell on the ball then, this game would have had zero drama. For statistical analysis, the rate for  known onside kicks recoveries in the last decade was under 20 percent, that’s for those of you keeping score at home.

By the way, I have never heard any official in any NFL game come back from under the hood to say “the equipment is not working, therefore the play cannot be challenged”, I guess after a while you truly get to see everything. My point through all of this… even with every challenge put in front of the Patriots to this marker of the season they still continue to do what is necessary to put “W’s” in the appropriate column.

The work put in and executed by the New England offensive line cannot be undervalued. The intelligence they bring, week in and week out is top-notch, even with all the changes to skill position personnel and injuries most observers would be shocked to learn the minimal difference in plays ran thus far in comparison to last season. A mere 12 plays, that’s it! The Patriots had run 299 plays on offense in 2012  through four games compared to 287 here in 2013. Not bad for a beat up offense still finding itself.

As the key contributors such as Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski and Shane Vereen start to find their way back into the line up, This offensive line led by the two giants protecting Brady will prove to be, in the end, why New England survived the short-handed start and give them continued championship resolve as the season moves to its make or break stretch. Without arguably the leagues best offensive line, the start to this Patriots season would look a lot different.