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-Dolphins: Ranking Tom Brady’s Trips to Miami

The Patriots are 5-5 in Miami during the Tom Brady Era. Brady's best game came on Oct. 21, 2007, in which he passed for 354 yards and a whopping six touchdowns. (AP Photo/Hans Deryk)

The 2011 New England Patriots season kicks off with a trip to Sun Life Stadium to play the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football. The Patriots have played 10 games in Miami during the Tom Brady era (including the 2008 season in which Brady played just one game), so how could we not do a Top 10 as part of our pre-game festivities?

Here’s how the last 10 Patriots-Dolphins road games stack up against each other:

10. Dolphins 21, Patriots 0 – Dec. 10, 2006

The Patriots’ 2006 game in Miami was one of just two Patriots shutouts that Brady has ever played, and Brady went 12-for-25 for just 78 yards in this one. He threw no interceptions, but he fumbled the ball twice, one of which the Dolphins recovered. The Patriots fumbled away three possessions total. The offensive line also couldn’t stop the Dolphins’ elite pass-rush, allowing five sacks and keeping the Patriots offense from ever developing any rhythm. Future-Patriot Sammy Morris rushed for 123 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown that gave the Dolphins a three-possession lead with less than a quarter to play.

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