Brady: Offensive line holds the key

When quarterback Tom Brady has time to throw, the Patriots' offense can be lethal. The Denver Broncos found that out the hard way on Saturday night.

Now, as preparations for the AFC Championship game against the Ravens shift into a higher gear, many are correctly pointing to the Patriots' offensive line as a key factor in the game.

"I thought those guys played well, really as they have had all year," quarterback Tom Brady said during his weekly appearance on sports radio WEEI on Monday (link here). "The offensive line has been our biggest strength on offense. It went that way in the regular season and continues to be that way in the playoffs."

One aspect that stands out to Brady is how the line has continued to play at a high level despite moving parts.

On Saturday night, for example, injured left guard Logan Mankins played seven of the eight series in the first half (34 of 39 snaps), getting a breather on the fourth series when Ryan Wendell replaced him. Mankins came back for the first series of the second half (5 snaps) before he got the rest of the night off to rest his injured knee.

"Logan [Mankins] is in there, then Logan's not in there and other guys are adjusting, but they all played really exceptionally well both in the run game and the pass game," Brady said. "It was a great effort by those guys and really all those guys have stepped in and moved spots [this year]."

Rookie Marcus Cannon was the top backup at offensive tackle. He played four snaps at right tackle when the team moved Nate Solder to tight end as an eligible receiver. That role could change if veteran Sebastian Vollmer returns to full health; Vollmer has missed the last six games with foot/back injuries.

Patriots starting offensive line:

LT -- Matt Light

LG -- Logan Mankins

C -- Dan Connolly

RG -- Brian Waters

RT -- Nate Solder