Patriots Playoffs: Protecting Brady from Tennessee’s pass rush

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05: Tom Brady /

The New England Patriots will have to keep QB Tom Brady upright and comfortable on Saturday night if they plan to win and advance.

It’s a well-known fact that the best way to beat the New England Patriots is to pressure and hit quarterback Tom Brady. The Tennessee Titans will surely try to do just that on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.

Brady has had an MVP season so far in 2017, but over the last few games, he’s forced some throws that led to interceptions. Some of those have come due to pressure from opposing defense. He’ll have to avoid those mistakes in the playoffs, and his offensive line will play a big role in that.

In the 2017 regular season, Tom Brady was sacked 35 times. Now, some of those are plays where Tom simply chose to take the sack, but that number still seems very large when you consider that he was sacked just 15 times in 12 regular season games last season. Yes, it seems like the Patriots offensive line play has dipped this season, and the numbers back that up. They are allowing 2.2 QB sacks per game, 14th in the league, compared to just 1.7 in 2016. Those hits begin to add up and take a toll on TB12. The key will be to protect him down the stretch during this playoff run.

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Feeling bleak? Don’t worry. The New England Patriots offensive line has actually improved as the season went on. In the first 5 games of the year, Brady was sacked 16 times, but in the final 5, he was sacked just 11 times. That may not seem like a huge difference, but it definitely is. Brady needs to feel confident moving and stepping up in the pocket to be at his best, and the line needs to provide him with that opportunity.

This season the Titans didn’t have a great defense, but they do have players that can find their way to the opposing quarterback. Linebackers Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo lead the pass rush for Tennessee, with 7.5 and 7.0 sacks respectively. Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey is next on their list with 6.0 sacks of his own, which is rare for an interior defensive lineman. A lot of the protection schemes that New England runs on Saturday will be based on those 3 players, and getting the ball out of Brady’s hand quickly should be a goal. The Titans do not have what it takes to cover the Patriots skill players, and if Brady has time to throw he can carve this defense apart.

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The Patriots and Titans Divisional Round playoff game will kick off at 8:15 PM on CBS. Chowder and Champions will be live tweeting during the game @CandCFansided. Make sure you follow us for breakdowns, opinions, and hot takes throughout the day.