By Tom E. CurranFOXBORO -On Friday night, Tom Brady took the bullet for a first quarter strip sack in Tampa, even though right tackle Marcus Cannon's effort on the play was embarrassing. Monday morning, Brady took the blame again. And Monday afternoon in the Patriots locker room, Brady assured me the offensive and the offensive line would be just fine. That's an assertion one will have to take on faith. Because, while the run blocking has been very good at times, the pass protection on the right edge behind Cannon has been scary for three games. On the left side behind Nate Solder, there's been one "good" performance. There's reason to believe they'll be better in the regular season. The middle-of-the-line shuffling will end. Tight ends may stay in longer to afford extra protection. Brady knows how to get rid of the ball quickly and fight another play. But until they're better...they're not better. It is what it is. Bill Belichick was asked during his Monday press conference whether he felt Brady's been getting hit too often. "You never want to see your quarterback get hit but its a function of a lot of things: not getting rid of the ball, protection, routes, so theres a lot of things come into play," said Belichick. "It needs to be better all the way around. I mean, we havent played very well offensively in any game, with anybody, for any length of time so weve got a lot of work to do."Belichick bristled a bit when asked when he'd settle on a clear-cut group of five linemen. "I would say were probably doing the best we can given the circumstances that we have," he stated. "I dont think all of our offensive linemen have been available. Weve had some guys on the roster that have been in different degrees ofhave worked in different ranges or stages and they havent been totally available for one reason or another. It is what it is."What it's beenwith Cannon is a disappointment. He's been fundamentally weak on someplays and - despite being athletic - his lack of fundamentals has put him in places that leave him looking awkward. There's not a lot of insight forthcoming when Cannon's asked how things are going. "We're all bonding together pretty good," he said." Working together and getting everything figured out.We're just out there doing our jobs to the best of our ability, um...there's uhhh, ya know...ummm...that's it." Yup. That about puts a bow on it.
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