Tom Brady has rightfully been receiving a lot of praise for his 517 yard performance on Monday night in Miami. However, those 517 yards are just statistics.
Statistics that give Brady all the credit.
Now obviously, everyone knows that Wes Welker, Deion Branch and Aaron Hernandez had a lot to do with turning Brady's master strokes into touchdowns. However, what really stood out from the Patriots victory over the Miami Dolphins was the play of the team's offensive line.
There is not one single quarterback in the league that could have performed as well as Brady did on Monday night without a clean pocket to throw from. The value of a clean pocket, especially for pocket passers, is immeasurable in football.
More often than not, Brady was able to step into his throws and see clearly where he wanted to place the football. Keeping his eye-line clear and allowing him to set his feet is just as important as picking the right receiver and accurately placing the ball down-field.
A clean pocket is something that is vital, but more often than not, completely overlooked.
When most people were berating Peyton Manning for throwing 17 interceptions last season, many of those people put all of the blame on Manning. If they didn't, they pointed to the fact that he was missing many of his receiving threats on the outside.
In reality, though, Manning was still Manning. He has been the most consistent and durable player in the NFL over the past decade. Playing with guys like Blair White and Jacob Tamme wasn't a problem for Manning, either. He is good enough to make his receivers better.
He has also been good enough for a long time to overcome the Colts' average offensive line. This was something that the franchise understood about Peyton, and instead, looked to surround him with weapons rather than upgrade the offensive line.
However, that eventually caught up to them, as the team had one of the worst pass protecting lines in the league last year. If you watch Manning's film from last season, you will see one thing that is consistent on most of his throws: He is under pressure. He was under pressure with Charlie Johnson from the outside, while he could never step up with his linemen being pushed into the backfield.
It is no coincidence that the team drafted two offensive linemen with their top two picks in this year's draft.
The Patriots also drafted an offensive lineman with their first pick this year. Nate Solder came out of Colorado and started his first game for the Patriots on Monday. He wasn't expected to be the starter, but Sebastien Vollmer missed the game through injury.
Solder is a big body and more than held up his own against Koa Misi and Jason Taylor. Even when the Dolphins moved the relentless Cameron Wake to his side, he continued to excel. He and veteran Matt Light kept Brady clean for most of the night, as the Dolphins registered only one sack.
The team didn't have things go all their own way also. Dan Koppen suffered a broken foot early in the game and did not return. He has been a constant for Brady throughout most of his career; however, Dan Connolly didn't miss a beat after moving to replace him.
Connolly was in a new position, while right guard Brian Waters was also making his first start for his new team. Logan Mankins was a pillar, as you would expect, but the line was amazing for a group with essentially three new starters in place.
So while Tom Brady and Wes Welker are receiving most of the plaudits, and oddly, Chad Ochocinco most of the abuse from Tedy Bruschi, at least take a little time to be thankful for having such a quality offensive line.
Those guys may not always get noticed, but it's not like they're hard to see.