Patriots offensive line shuffled with Mankins, Connolly out

Patriots offensive line shuffled with Mankins, Connolly out
November 11, 2012, 11:46 pm
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FOXBORO -- Coming off the bye week, the Patriots appeared to be relatively healthy and well-rested. It didn't last long.

New England's offensive line was shaken up by injuries in Sunday's 37-31 win over the Bills. Right guard Dan Connolly left the game in the second quarter with a back injury and did not return. Logan Mankins limped off the field with an ankle injury in the third quarter, and he remained out of the game as well.

Donald Thomas was called upon to replace Connolly. He said he was ready when he entered the game at right guard.

"You got to come to the stadium ready to play," said Thomas, who warmed up two hours before the opening kick with backup quarterback Ryan Mallett, snapping balls to Mallett as a center.

"You never know if you'll play or not play. You got to be ready to go and another situation happened today where I had to step in and fill the void for somebody."

When Mankins went down, Nick McDonald stepped in at left guard. McDonald has the ability to play all five offensive line spots and he too was ready when he got the call.

"You have to prepare each week as if something like that is going to happen," McDonald said. "It's unfortunate that someone goes down. You never want to see that. We're good friends and good teammates, but when they go down and your number is called you have to play just like they would, just like a starter would."

Brady was sacked once on the day and was hit a handful of times after getting rid of the ball. It wasn't a perfect performance, but the new-look offensive line did enough to help the Patriots win.

"I think, you know, what happened today, we managed the game and were able to move th ball," Thomas said. "There is always room for improvement and you can always go back and break down the film. That's any team and any player. So we take the good and the bad and move on from it and try to not make the same mistakes twice."

Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia has historically done a good job of taking cast-offs and turning them into productive players. On Sunday, after Mankins went down, New England's interior offensive line was made up of two undrafted players (McDonald and center Ryan Wendell) and a former sixth-round pick who has been cut three times in his career (Thomas).

Part of their success on Sunday was due in part the Patriots coaching staff having their backups ready.

"Honestly, it's not a big challenge," McDonald said of entering in the middle of a game. "It's just a matter of being prepared for it. That's the biggest thing. Preparing mentally as if you're going to start the game, so going into it sometimes it is hard to do that but you have to be ready just like the starters are."