O-Line demonstrates depth

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O-Line demonstrates depth

FOXBORO -- Just 90 minutes before the opening kickoff of Saturday's game against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium, Patriots players were informed that offensive tackle Matt Light wouldn't be playing because of an ankle injury.

So the first thing Bill Belichick did was move guard Logan Mankins to the outside, into Light's usual role as left tackle. The next thing Belichick did was inform Donald Thomas that he'd be making his first start since 2009, in Mankins' position.

Turns out, Mankins didn't last long, leaving the game -- and never returning -- late in the first quarter with a knee injury. That forced New England's hand to move Nate Solder to left tackle, and place Marcus Cannon at right tackle.

"Matt's ankle was, he just wasnt able to push off on it, so we were scrambling around there," said Belichick after the game. "And then Logan played a few plays and then he went out, so we had to take what was left."

As you would expect, the game of musical chairs on the Patriots' offensive line wasn't a perfect transition. Brady was sacked twice and knocked down three times in the first quarter.
Thomas described the first half as "chaotic."

"I was just told before the game to be ready to go," said Thomas after the game. "And then we went out there and it's game time, and you're up. That was it, basically. I don't know what's going on with anybody. I was just told to be ready to go when I got in this morning. And I just had to roll with it."

The Patriots' offensive line struggled in the first half, just like the rest of the team, and Miami went into halftime with a 17-0 lead.

Tom Brady was pressured at times in the second half, but clearly had more time to make plays, thanks to the improvements made on the offensive line.

Those improvements came in a three-step process. First, get the communication in order. Second, trust each other to do your own job. Third, trust the system.

The new-look offensive line did all three in the second half, and it helped New England's offense surge to a 27-24 win, securing a first-round bye in the playoffs.

"To lose Matt Light an hour-and-a-half before the game, and then to lose Logan Mankins the first or second series of the game, a lot of guys really stepped in, played hard, and played for 60 minutes," said Brady after the win. "That's what it took today.

"They're tough, they're very well coached," added Brady on his offensive line. "They have a lot of pride and work extremely hard. So anytime you have those qualities as players or as a group, you learn to fight through adversity, and they've done that all year."

They did it with different personnel in different positions on Saturday. And they did it because, in New England, and especially under offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, everybody was prepared as if they were going to play. And once they got the communication down, it was all about trust.

"If you've been around here this year, the one thing that you should know -- and again, it goes to the depth of this football team, and the professionalism of this football team -- is, you never know when it's your turn," said Patriots veteran offensive lineman Brian Waters. "If you're dressed, you prepare all week. You've got to be prepared to play, no matter what position you're in, no matter where you are on the depth chart.

"If you put those pads on, you've got to respect that, at some point of the season, you're going to be asked to play. You just never know when it is. So you've always got to be prepared.

"Everybody on this offensive line really cares about the other guys, because that's the way they prepare," added Waters. "At some point, you're going to be called on. If you're not prepared, and you're not ready to go, that means you don't care about the other guys next to you. And on the flip side, you've got to trust that guy. And that's what happened in the second half."

Tomlin apologizes for language, calls Brown's actions 'foolish' and 'selfish'

Tomlin apologizes for language, calls Brown's actions 'foolish' and 'selfish'

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin indicated that stunts like Antonio Brown’s Sunday night video are the kind that get good players shipped out of town.

“He's a great player, respected largely in the locker room but incidents such as this don't help him in that regard,” said Tomlin told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette and others at a Tuesday press conference in Pittsburgh. “That's often why you see great players move from team to team. Don't want that to happen to Antonio Brown.” 

Tomlin, who referred to the Patriots as “a--holes” after the Steelers beat Kansas City in a Divisional Playoff game, apologized for his profanity and the other off-color comments made in the 17-minute broadcast.

“Like to say the language on the video is regrettable, by me and by others,” Tomlin stated.” That's why we go to great lengths to preserve certain moments and interactions between us. As a parent, as a member of the community I take that very seriously. I issue an apology in that regard.”

Tomlin added that he has “absolutely no worries on the video's effect on the game, on the Patriots, on the Steelers. Game is too big.”

Returning to Brown – who has yet to address why he thought this was a great idea – Tomlin said, “It was foolish of him to do that, selfish and inconsiderate. It was violation of our policy, league policy. He has to grow from this. He works extremely hard, he's extremely talented and those things get minimized with incidents like this."
 

Where is Roger? Not in Foxboro . . . again

Where is Roger? Not in Foxboro . . . again

After speculation and “Do it; you won’t” cries from Patriots fans as to whether Roger Goodell would show his face at Gillette Stadium for the AFC Championship, we’ve now got our answer: When the Patriots and Steelers kick off Sunday in Foxboro, the commissioner will be 1,045 miles away. 

Goodell will reportedly attend the NFC Championship Sunday in Atlanta, continuing his absence from Patriots home games since the start of Deflategate. For those inclined to call it merely a coincidence, Goodell was in Atlanta last week for the Falcons and Seahawks. This will be two straight weeks of Atlanta -- with a trip to Kansas City for Chiefs-Steelers mixed in -- and still no New England. 

Tom Brady, whom Goodell suspended for four games over the ball-deflating scandal, was asked on WEEI Monday about the possibility of Goodell attending a game in New England. 

“He’s the commissioner, so obviously whatever he wants to do, he can do,” Brady said on Kirk and Callahan. “If he wants to come, that would be -- yeah, he can come.”

Asked if he wanted Goodell at the game, Brady replied, “He can go wherever he wants to go. Whoever is at the game is at the game.”

Equally popular as the will-Goodell-ever-go-back-to-Gillette discussion has been that of how Patriots fans would react. Last week, something of a light feud between Michael Felger and Barstool Sports’ Dave Portnoy took place over what kind of behavior towards the commissioner is acceptable. 

That all remains a moot point, however, as Goodell won’t need to worry about being berated, spit on or anything else. Any of that will continue to be put off for as long as he stays away from Gillette.