FOXBOROUGH — The Dolphins come into Sunday’s division game against the Patriots with 17 sacks, which is roughly half as many as the NFL-leading Chiefs, and one behind New England.
But in recent weeks, it hasn’t been a huge challenge for teams to get to Tom Brady, who has been sacked 13 times in the last three games (against the Bengals, Saints, and Jets), and 20 times this season.
It’s never good to allow a sack, but for a 36-year-old franchise quarterback with an offense struggling to move the ball consistently, it’s especially tough to take.
Brady has been sacked fewer than 30 times eight out of the last nine years, but is on pace for 45 this season. With a veteran offensive line that returned all five starters, it’s even more surprising.
“There’s times we play really good and there’s times where we played really bad, like [vs. the Jets] where a little stretch there was just about as bad as you can get,” guard Logan Mankins said. “Everyone in that room wants to do it perfect and it’s just not going to happen. We’re playing against good guys and the frustrating thing is when we do things wrong and that’s the reason for a sack.
“We want to make them earn it, and we didn’t make them earn it every time.”
Mankins said not everything is the fault of the offensive line, but there is enough of the blame it has to shoulder, not just for the sacks but for the difficulties the offense has had as a whole.
Coach Bill Belichick, however, said sacks can go against all 11 players on the field.
“It’s a combination of the line, quarterback, running back, tight end, and receiver,” he said. “Some of that is also the combination of the previous plays. There are a lot more sacks on third and long [the Patriots faced six such situations against the Jets] than there are on third and short.
“It’s a combination of all of it. There’s certainly room for improvement everywhere, including on the coaching end. A couple times the play we had on wasn’t a good play against [the defense] we happened to face. We have to stay out of that situation or find a different way to handle it. Things have come up a couple times on our end, too.
“We all just have to do a better job across the board.”
A bit of a stretch
Those who keep an eye on pregame have noticed this season that the Patriots have reconfigured the way they line up. In years past, they’ve done like other teams, lining up in rows every 5 yards, and for the Patriots the captains would be at the front, facing their teammates.
This year, they’ve been in more of a shape of a cross, with all players facing the middle.
“We thought we might get a little more out of it doing it the way we’re doing it now,” Belichick said.
“We just felt pulling everybody a little closer together so they can hear. Just make sure we do the best we can with that amount of time, get it done quickly and move along.
“It seemed like it took a lot of time to get everybody lined up, running around, get going. [Now we] just move through it a little bit quicker.”
Julian Edelman met with students from Emerson College’s social media class on Thursday night, bringing with him hamburgers. The students took to Twitter to convince Edelman ( @Edelman11) to visit. The same class got then-Patriot and infamous tweeter Chad Ochocinco to visit two years ago . . . With one TD pass, Brady will move into sole possession of fourth on the all-time list. Brady is tied with Fran Tarkenton with 342. Dan Marino is in third with 420.Shalise Manza Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.