According to the final stat sheet, Tom Brady was sacked twice, the Tampa Bay defense was credited with four quarterback hits, and running back Stevan Ridley had three carries where he was taken down behind the line of scrimmage.
Were all of those on the offensive line? Probably not. But it was another tough night for the line, which saw the return of Logan Mankins (briefly) and also a heavy rotation of players on the interior of the line. Dan Connolly took game snaps at center for the first time in the preseason, and Donald Thomas was the starting right guard, but when Mankins came out of the game, Thomas was flipped to left guard, Connolly slid to right guard, and Ryan Wendell and Dan Koppen took snaps at center.
“We didn’t play that well tonight, we had a lot of mistakes and bad plays so we have to be better,” Mankins said, adding that it felt good to get back into game action. The veteran didn’t know the exact plan for how long he’d play but knew he must have been on a snap count since he was pulled mid-series in the first quarter.
“We didn’t play situational football that we needed to play, just didn’t get things done when they needed to happen,” Connolly said.
With the theme of the postgame locker room being “we need to get better”, that work starts almost as soon as the Patriots get back to Foxborough.
“It’s how the team responds from this,” Mankins said. “Do we learn from it? Do we improve from it? Does it motivate us to work harder, study harder? I think anytime you have as many plays go the way that we had tonight that were disappointing, I think you just have to see how the team sees those plays and responds to those plays. If they continue to happen, we didn’t learn anything. If we get better from it, then we did.”
And one thing the line knows: it can’t continue to let Brady get knocked down like he was.
“[The Bucs] were giving us some extra stuff and we just weren’t getting the job done. It’s our job to block them whatever they give us,” Connolly said. “They can run wherever they want, that’s what they’re allowed to do. Whenever he gets hit, we’re not doing our job. And we need to do a better job of that.”