Jan 20, 2013; Foxboro, MA, USA; New England Patriots tackle Nate Solder (77) lines up against the Baltimore Ravens in the first quarter of the AFC championship game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

AFC Championship Matchups: New England's Offensive Line, Versus Denver's Front Seven

Jan 11, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates with guard Logan Mankins (70) after a touchdown during the fourth quarter of the 2013 AFC divisional playoff football game against the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

If the New England Patriots are to advance to the Super Bowl this Sunday, their offensive line must play a flawless football game. They struggled all year long, but it seems like they are coming together at the right time, both in the passing game, and in the running game.

All the national “experts” have been making a big deal lately about the running game of the Patriots. And while they certainly have picked it up on the ground as of late, all the credit is being given to LeGarrette Blount, and Stevan Ridley. These guys have played phenomenal football, but the offensive line has played just as well. Running the ball against the Broncos will be vital for the Patriots, because it not only will allow them to control the time of possession, but it will make life a hell of a lot easier on quarterback Tom Brady.

In The Running Game

A lot of people have been making the argument that the Broncos run defense will be able to slow the New England attack, because they finished 2013 ranked eight versus the run. However that stat is slightly skewed, because their opponents hardly ever ran the ball, as they were always trying to catch up to Peyton Manning, and his record setting offense. Opponents of Denver averaged 26 carries per game this year, which ranks them at 25th in the league. They simply haven’t been tested, which is why they appear to have such a strong front seven. Meanwhile, the Patriots have been running the ball at a pace that hasn’t been seen in New England in quite some time, and I definitely think they will give Denver all they can handle on the ground. Logan Mankins leads the group in run blocking, but they all have been solid in this area, even right guard Dan Connolly, who has otherwise had a pretty bad 2013 campaign. Look for this group to establish their dominance early and often this Sunday, as they pave holes for Blount and Ridley to scamper through, all game long.

In The Passing Game

Even though Von Miller is out, this is an area where I feel that Denver could have a surprisingly good day, particularly on the inside. Nate Solder is one of the best tackles this league has to offer, and I think he will handle Shaun Phillips just fine. The other tackle, Marcus Cannon, is also solid, and I expect him to continue his stellar season this weekend. The potential problem I see, lies with Dan Connolly, and Ryan Wendell. They are good run blockers, but they have been exposed in pass blocking throughout this entire 2013 season. Lucky for them, Denver doesn’t have a real dominant pass rusher on the inside. But they still have to be on their game this week, because the one thing that will truly be able to slow down this New England offense, is pressure in the face of Tom Brady.

Tags: Dan Connolly Logan Mankins Marcus Cannon Nate Solder New England Patriots Ryan Wendell Shaun Phillips

comments powered by Disqus