O-line continues to protect Tom Brady

FOXBORUGH, Mass. -- Even against the league's top defense on Sunday, the New England Patriots' offense couldn't be stopped.

In putting together yet another blowout win with a 34-9 result over the Lions, Tom Brady seemingly led the charge once again. The quarterback led an aerial assault against Detroit's defense, totaling 349 passing yards and two touchdowns on 53 pass attempts (38 completions).

Sure, it was another strong game in what's become an MVP-caliber season for Brady. However, much of the credit should go to the Patriots' offensive line, which kept disruptive tackle Ndamukong Suh and the Lions' top-ranked pass rush from being able to register a single sack against their quarterback.

In fact, you have to go back three weeks to find the last time Brady was sacked, late in the first quarter by DeMarcus Ware of the Denver Broncos on Nov. 2.

"You can't take [anything] away from them," Lions defensive end George Johnson said. "We couldn't get to the quarterback, so they did a real good job on us today."

It wasn't long ago that the offensive line was being pointed to as the team's biggest weakness. Through the first four games of the season, the unit allowed Brady to be sacked nine times, a fact often pointed to as the reason for his early struggles this season.

In the seven games following the Patriots' last loss, a 41-14 disaster against the Kansas City Chiefs that seems nothing more than a blip in the radar now, the offensive line has allowed only five sacks total.

ESPN Stats & Information took a further look at the matter. In the Patriots' first four games, Brady was sacked on 6.2 percent of his 146 dropbacks, tied for 23rd in the league. The last four games? Brady has been sacked only once in 172 dropbacks, good for 0.6 precent. That's the best rate in the league over that time.

On Sunday, Brady was pressured on just 9.4 percent of his dropbacks, the lowest percentage for any quarterback facing the Lions this season.

"[Getting to Brady] just didn't happen," Lions' defensive tackle C.J. Mosley said.

As a result, it isn't much of a surprise that 34 points were the most the Lions have allowed to any offense this season.

"They just up-tempo'd us," Lions safety James Ihedigbo said. "We were trying to get in the best call possible for each situation. We had a few communication breakdowns there."

A lot of credit for that goes to offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for the drastic shift he provided from last week's game plan. After leaning heavily on the run against the Indianapolis Colts, racking up 246 yards on the ground, the Patriots were relentless through the air this time out. However, only two of Brady's 38 completed passes went for more than 20 yards.

"They knew that they wouldn't be able to run the ball as well because of our front up there," Ihedigbo said. "They prepared for us. It wasn't really downfield passing that they did, it was just nickel and dime us.

"We knew that was a part of their offense, but we thought they'd actually try to run the ball. You run for 200 yards, you think you'll kind of stick to it. But when you have a quarterback like Tom Brady, you can do whatever you want."

When Brady has the time to throw he did on Sunday, he truly can do whatever he wants. Although Detroit registered four hits on him, the quintet of Nate Solder, Dan Connolly, Bryan Stork, Ryan Wendell and Sebastian Vollmer pretty much shut down the Detroit pass rush. Even after Connolly left with an ankle injury in the fourth quarter, Josh Kline came in and filled in admirably.

It's what they've done throughout the Patriots' seven-game winning streak. And while Brady continues to draw attention as top candidate for league MVP, it goes without saying that the offensive line has been the team's most valuable component in getting him to that point.