They also adapt to whatever strategy coordinator Josh McDaniels draws up. If Brady is going to throw 35 or 40 passes, the linemen can form a protective pocket a Secret Service agent would admire.
When the game plan calls for a heavy dose of running plays, they can blast a defense with head-on blocks or outmaneuver it with traps and pulls.
Playing in front of a quarterback with three Super Bowl rings doesn't hurt. Among all his other skills, Brady has a remarkable ability to avoid danger, even when he doesn't see it. In the final regular-season game, for example, Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora came off the corner, beat Light and just about swatted the ball out of Brady's hands. Somehow, Brady escaped.
"He has kind of a sixth sense to dunk it, or step up in the pocket, or do whatever he has to do to make sure we don't give up a big play," says Light. "He puts us all in the right position. You can't ask for more than that, man."
The offensive linemen, though, miss seeing Brady perform his magic during a game because their backs are usually to him. They can't really admire what he does until a day or two later, when they're in their meeting room watching the tape.
Light wasn't aware of Brady's near-perfect passing performance against the Jaguars until after the game. "That's pretty good," he deadpanned when informed of his quarterback's numbers.
The numbers associated with offensive linemen usually are negative (think sacks allowed or false starts). And few fans, other than those who are old linemen themselves, perhaps, really understand and appreciate the important role they play. But toiling in obscurity is just part of the gig.
"The general thought is if someone is talking about you, it's usually for the wrong reasons," says Koppen. "We don't pay attention to anything going on outside of us and just try to worry about our jobs and what we have to do on Sundays. We're not out there for ourselves or to make an identity."
New England's offensive line did gain some national exposure off the field in 2005. After the Patriots won their third Super Bowl title in four years, Visa put together a television commercial featuring Brady and his linemen (Light, Koppen and Hochstein, plus Tom Ashworth and Brandon Gorin, who no longer are with the team). The lighthearted spot focused on the credit card's five layers of protection — one for each lineman, get it? — and showed the starters, in full uniforms, accompanying Brady through the day as he bought coffee, shopped online and took a date to dinner. Finally, Brady confronted them, asking them why they had to follow him everywhere.
On the football field, having his linemen around is a good thing. Brady sure wouldn't want to leave the huddle without them — even that rascally left tackle.
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