By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — As the Patriots prepare for yet another trip to the Super Bowl, you’re going to hear a lot about their star players. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are the GOATs at their respective positions. Julian Edelman is putting together a Hall of Fame resume with his postseason heroics. And though Rob Gronkowski may no longer be the imposing force we once referred to simply as Gronk, he is still making a gigantic impact.
But can we take a break from the larger-than-life personalities on the team and talk about the larger-than-your-average-bear individuals that are making life oh so easy for them? Because the New England offensive line has been downright spectacular during the postseason, and are a giant reason (many giant reasons, that is) the Patriots will be playing for another Lombardi Trophy in two weeks.
As the rest of the NFL is throwing out aerial assaults like we’ve never seen before, Bill Belichick is once again bucking the trend. The Patriots are employing a run-first, smash mouth offense designed to control the ball, keep the opposing defense guessing , and keep their opponents’ offense off the field. Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead and James White have absolutely gashed opposing defenses this postseason, racking up 155 yards against the Chargers in the divisional round and a whopping 176 yards and four touchdowns against the Chiefs in the AFC title game Sunday night. New England converted 13 of their 19 third downs in Kansas City, thanks in large part to the running games effectiveness on earlier downs (and Tom Brady, of course).
They wouldn’t be doing this if not for the incredible play of the Patriots’ offensive linemen. Those gigantic individuals are Trent Brown, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason and Marcus Cannon, and they have absolutely bullied their opposition into submission over the last two weeks. Under the tutelage of offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, they have become an absolute force this postseason, opening up holes for their running backs while also keeping Brady standing.
“I wouldn’t want to have anyone in the league other than the five guys I have up front,” Brady said during his weekly interview on WEEI on Monday. “Dante is the greatest offensive line coach in the history of the NFL.”
That part about Scarnecchia is no hyperbole. Belichick begged him out of retirement three years ago after he watched Brady get demolished by the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship. The quarterback took 17 hits that day, went home with a uniform that looked like he spent the day slip-and-sliding on a grassy knoll, and the Patriots’ season ended without a trip to the Super Bowl.
This postseason, Brady’s uniform hasn’t required any special cleaning solutions. He has yet to be sacked during the playoffs, with the offensive line rendering the likes of Los Angeles’ Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa and Kansas City’s Dee Ford and Chris Jones completely useless. We rarely heard any of those players mentioned throughout New England’s two victories, and Ford is only in the news because of a boneheaded neutral zone infraction that likely cost the Chiefs a chance to the Super Bowl.
The Patriots offensive line isn’t just handling their opponents, they’re snapping their fingers and making them completely disappear. Whether that is negating a pass-rush or opening a cavernous hole for their running backs, they’re getting the job done, leading to some spectacular and eye-popping results.
Make no mistake, holding back fellow 300-pounders is no easy task. Shoving them aside and parting the sea for their running backs is no easy task. And playing such disciplined football, committing zero pre-snap penalties in the loud and hostile environment of Arrowhead Stadium, is no easy task either.
But the Patriots offensive line is certainly making it look easy. Now they just have to keep pushing and shoving the opposition one more time in two weeks against the Los Angeles Rams with a championship on the line. If they can keep it up, they’ll go down as one of the best offensive lines to ever move mountains for the New England Patriots.