Matt Light Made Patriots Offensive Line Much, Much Better

Matt Light retired from the NFL Monday. He played for the Patriots for 11 years, starting nearly every game and anchoring a much-improved offensive line. (AP/www.Boston.com)

When the 2012 New England Patriots kick off their season in a few months, many of the faces will look familiar. Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker will still be there, picking apart defenses. Jerod Mayo will still blow up any receiver foolhardy enough to run across the middle of the field. Stephen Gostkowski will still split the uprights with computer-like proficiency.

But one familiar face won’t be there: Matt Light, who retired from the NFL Monday. Light played for the Patriots for 11 years, starting 153 of 155 total regular season games, plus 16 playoff games. He started all 16 games in seven different seasons, playing a key role in the Patriots’ transformation into the premier NFL franchise of the 21st century.

Light Anchored Competent Offensive Line

In the five years before Light arrived, the Patriots’ offensive line averaged just under 41 sacks per season, with an average rank smack in the middle of the NFL (16). With Light anchoring the team starting in 2001, average sacks dropped down to 30.5, and average ranking improved to 11.1.

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Patriots Report Card: Week 4

Stevan Ridley's 97 yards, 9.7 yards per carry and first NFL touchdown made him the top performer of Sunday's Patriots victory over the Raiders. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Welcome back to Goose’s Gabs’ weekly report card for your New England Patriots! The Patriots did what they always do the week after a loss: win. Specifically, they beat the Oakland Raiders, 31-19. And with losses by the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets, the Patriots are once again tied atop the AFC East (though the Bills still have the tie-breaker). For one week, equilibrium is restored in Foxborough.

Quarterback: A-

Tom Brady was not quite his usual, crisp self, completing just 53.3 percent of his passes after completing nearly 70 percent through the first three weeks. Brady seemed slightly out of sync with his receivers Sunday, always overthrowing them. Perhaps Oakland’s pass rush affected his timing more than normal. Still, Brady followed a four-interception game with a zero-interception game, throwing for 226 yards and two touchdowns. He did far, far more to help the team than to hinder it. How odd, however, to see Brady take a back seat to his running backs. Speaking of which…

Running backs: A

Three Patriots running backs ran for 185 yards and two touchdowns, including the first ever by Stevan Ridley, who also led the team with 97 yards and 9.7 yards per carry. Ridley finally showed the full measure of his speed and athleticism, spinning, whirling and leaping his way to three first downs. The Patriots wanted to take the pressure off Brady, who defenses will focus on more and more as the season progresses, and the running backs stepped up. BenJarvus Green-Ellis did the lion’s share of the rushing with 16 carries, gaining 75 yards and a touchdown in the process. Ridley and Green-Ellis have the kind of complimentary skills that could finally rebuild the Patriots’ running game. Green-Ellis has the strength to chew up yards through the middle, whereas Ridley has the speed to get around the corner and up the sidelines.

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Patriots Report Card: Week 1

Tom Brady's record-setting 517 passing yards and four touchdown throws highlighted an A-level offensive performance against the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

Welcome to Goose’s Gabs’ weekly report card for your New England Patriots! Each week I’ll analyze every Patriots position group, identifying particularly noteworthy performances from the previous week’s game.

In their 38-24 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football, the Patriots answered many of the questions fans had about the offense entering Week 1. Between 622 total offensive yards, 38 points, and 27 first downs on 8-for-13 third-down efficiency, few can still worry about this team’s ability to score points. Their ability to prevent points is another question, but for now all is well in New England.

So let’s play teacher and hand out some grades!

Quarterback: A

Tom Brady set both a Patriots and Monday Night Football record with 517 passing yards. Only four other quarterbacks have ever racked up more passing yards in a game, and none since 1996. Coupled with a 66.7 completion percentage and four touchdown passes, it’s impossible to give Brady anything other than a straight A. His third-quarter interception allowed Miami to tie the game, but even that couldn’t keep him from a 121.6 QB rating. Although one game is too early to tell, Brady certainly looks poised for another big year, able to throw the ball short and deep, over the middle and to the sidelines.

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