Last season, after the game that shall not be named, many Patriots fans pointed the finger (probably not the index) at the Patriots' offensive and defensive lines for letting the Giants walk all over them.
The hallmark of the Patriots' success last season, the offensive line, was ranked the best in football, sending three players to the Pro Bowl.
The defensive line solidified itself as one of the best in the league, as Richard Seymour, Ty Warren, and Vince Wilfork dominated the 3-4 defense—terrorizing opposing quarterbacks and stopping premier running backs.
This year the offensive line started off a little banged up, as Yates and Lavoie had to fill in on the right side of the line. The defensive line attracted its share of criticism early on, especially after Ronnie Brown ran roughshod in September.
Things have all changed now.
After the Patriots' 20-10 (should've been 20-3) beatdown of the Buffalo Bills, it was clear that both the offensive and defensive units were back. The offensive line did a fantastic job blocking, helping Patriots rookie BenJarvus Green-Ellis achieve his first 100-yard game of his career.
The offensive line was equally impressive in the passing game, setting up pockets for Matt Cassel to step in and deliver strikes down the field. Cassel's level of comfort seems to increase every week, and I think it's because of the big uglies up front.
The Patriots' defensive line has reclaimed its spot at the top of the league after their solid performance against the Bills and their feature running back, Marshawn Lynch.
Ty Warren led all defenders with seven tackles and a sack, while Vince Wilfork finished with four tackles. Richard Seymour added three tackles and a sack.
All three have done a great job stopping solid running backs this season. Top-tier runners like Frank Gore, LaDanian Tomlinson, Marshawn Lynch, and Joseph Addai have all been held in check in recent weeks, giving the Pats' defense extra confidence.
One point of emphasis is the Patriots' toughness against the run on first down situations.
Time after time, Lynch would get to the line only to get stopped for little or no gain. This gives the Patriots the advantage in second and third and long situations, as they can add defensive backs while anticipating the pass.
For the Patriots to keep it rolling and take the AFC East, both the offensive and defensive line have to keep performing at this level and avoid injury. The game is won and lost in the trenches, and hopefully the Pats' big guys can keep dominating.
Their season depends on it.