FOXBOROUGH — Tom Brady might not want to see the following stat: Of the 36 times Rams quarterbacks Shaun Hill and Austin Davis dropped back against the Vikings last week, they were hurried 24 times.
Hill, St. Louis’s starter after Sam Bradford was lost for the season, was knocked out of the game, leaving Davis to finish out the loss.
Seven Vikings had at least two hurries, meaning pressure comes from anywhere — ends Everson Griffen and Brian Robison each had four, as did tackle Linval Joseph, while fellow tackle Tom Johnson had three. Safety Harrison Smith had two.
All of which is to say New England’s offensive line, which had less than a banner day against the Dolphins, needs to be prepared for that pressure.
Brady was sacked four times in the loss to Miami, including two strip-sacks, and he was hit eight times and hurried 18 times.
As happens after a Patriots loss, much of the talk has been centered on making improvements. For Brady and the offense, those include communication, execution, and even fundamentals.
“Man, we’re working on everything,” left tackle Nate Solder said. “We didn’t feel real happy with anything we did last game, so we went back to our fundamentals and are working on everything . . . It’s a lot of basic stuff, a lot of stuff we know how to do and we can improve.”
“We’re all connected. Everybody on the offense is connected,” Brady said. “In offensive football, you really need 11 guys to do the right thing on every play or else it’s usually not a successful play and you certainly can’t sustain it over the course of a drive. You just can’t have any breakdowns.
“When you have them, which you’re going to have them in every game and you’ll have them to a degree on every play — not everybody is going to stone their guy at the line of scrimmage or run the perfect route. You’ve got to have some margin for error. If we break down at the line I’ve got to get the ball out. If we have extra time to throw, I’ve got to find the open guy, I’ve got to have my eyes in the right place to find the right guy. It’s all connected on offense, and we all rely on each other for our ability to do each other’s job, and the better we all do it the better we’ll be as a group.”
Dan Connolly, who played center and right guard against Miami, acknowledged the Vikings had a strong outing against St. Louis.
“They did and it’s up to us to prepare this week and study them and know our opponent,” he said. “[We’re] always trying to improve; there’s always something that can be improved on. That’s our goal this week, to take care of those things and prepare for Minnesota.”
Last year, when the Patriots played the Bengals, Brady had one of the worst games of his career, and New England scored just 6 points in the road loss. Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator then was Mike Zimmer, now the head coach of the Vikings.
Brady was asked specifically about what Zimmer did to be so successful against him last year, but the quarterback wasn’t getting into specifics.
“He’s a great coordinator and a great coach,” Brady said. “Minnesota hired him because he’s been so successful. He’s got a great scheme. I think he obviously coaches those guys very well. He’s a very disciplined coach.”
Switching offensive linemen during the Dolphins game, without there being any injuries, is highly unusual, and it wasn’t done because of the weather — Bill Belichick and line coach Dave DeGuglielmo weren’t sure who their best five players were going into the game.
Thus, the unit started with Connolly at center and Jordan Devey at right guard, and switched in the third series, with Ryan Wendell coming in at center and Connolly going to right guard. They continued to make that change throughout the game.
But the line is set up to function as a unit and block from a team concept, so cohesion is paramount.
Connolly didn’t think the moving made things difficult. “I knew my job, both spots, and just focused on that,” he said.
Solder, on the other hand, said the changes may have played a factor in the line’s poor play.
“There might have been a little bit of that,” he said. “I think it’s just a matter of going through a lot of things together, being in familiarity, and I think it will all work together if we continue to do the things we’re coached to do.”