THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Bad game? Try to block it out

By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / September 1, 2011

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Last year, the Patriots suffered a last-minute loss to the Rams and rookie quarterback Sam Bradford in their third preseason game, and Bill Belichick made the unusual move of having his starters play in the preseason finale against the Giants.

History could repeat itself tonight.

After a humbling at the hands of the Lions last weekend, New England fans may get to see Tom Brady and the rest of the top-tier Patriots in uniform and on the field against New York.

And for the offensive line, it could be another tough test.

The Giants are an aggressive pass-rushing team, much like Detroit, which battered Brady at Ford Field Saturday night. New York totaled 46 sacks last year, with 11 1/2 each coming from Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora. Umenyiora, however, is on the shelf with a knee injury.

But Brady wouldn’t lay all of the blame at the feet of the offensive line; he shouldered some of it, as did every offensive player on the field.

Belichick totally agreed that there was plenty of blame to go around, saying, “The problems were much deeper than any one player blocking on the line in the passing game.’’

But that doesn’t mean the linemen don’t recognize when they haven’t done their best work.

“I think everyone that watched the game could see that we didn’t play the way we wanted to,’’ said Logan Mankins, “and I think they played more physical and harder and executed a lot better than we did.

“We knew they were going to come out hard, and our plan was to come out and play them hard, and things weren’t going right, and I think when things aren’t going right, you have to dig down and fight back and I don’t know if we fought back the way we wanted to.’’

One thing Brady noted is that every player makes mistakes: linemen get beat, quarterbacks throw interceptions, receivers drop passes. Yet every play starts with the snap from center, and the outcome of many a play is dictated by the offensive line.

Still, they are a prideful bunch, and they know that, oftentimes, as they go, so goes the rest of the offense. And they aren’t protecting just any quarterback, they’re protecting Brady, whose importance to the franchise is obvious. But there have been concerns voiced that the Patriots lean on him too much and have a tougher time winning games when he doesn’t put up big numbers.

“We know Tom got hit way too much that game and we’ve got to do a better job of not letting guys get to Tom,’’ Mankins said. “When the O-line plays good, things are usually going pretty good around here, and when we don’t play so good, we have outcomes like last week.’’

Protecting Brady, said Matt Light, is “our No. 1 job, you know?’’

The line put in some work this week under the demanding eye of coach Dante Scarnecchia, and will have some extra time to prepare for Miami in advance of the Monday night regular-season opener in 11 days.

“We go into each season with the same set of goals,’’ said Light. “As far as how Dante helps us prepare week in and week out, the job that he has to do is one that’s very important, one that we take very serious.

“There’s obviously things that we have to improve on. And that’ll be the case each and every week, but at the end of the day, I think we have a group of guys that work hard, we’re out there practicing, we practice the entire time, nobody’s taking plays off, and we’re a prideful group and we just gotta go out there and do it better.’’

While the line, like the rest of the team, works to improve as the opener draws near, Brady asserted that he has no doubts about the men in front of him.

“I’ve played behind those guys for a long time, and nobody has more confidence in those guys than me,’’ he said. “Matt Light, him being on my left side, and Logan and Kope [Dan Koppen], and [Dan] Connolly, and Sea Bass [Sebastian Vollmer], those guys have been great players for us.

“Standing back there in the pocket holding the football, I have so much confidence in those guys and what they’re able to do, the way they work together, the way they communicate, their mental toughness . . .

“They’re a bunch of tough guys and they take a lot of pride in what they do, so there’s nobody more confident than me in that group.’’

Shalise Manza Young can be reached at syoung@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.

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