BOSTON -- Many observers were concerned with the composition of the New England Patriots offensive line earlier this season. But retired offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia was not one of them.
Asked his thoughts by the Boston Herald following the Patriots’ 16-9 win over the Oakland Raiders in Week 3 — a game in which quarterback Tom Brady was sacked twice, bringing his early-season total to seven — Scarnecchia preached that the team would need to be patient with the offensive line. And now, with the Patriots having won nine of 11 games since then and looking primed for a deep playoff run, Scarnecchia isn’t surprised to see the positive results of that patient approach.
“It’s paid off great for them,” Scarnecchia said Thursday during a team event at the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
The improvement of the offensive line has been one of the most important elements of the Patriots' recent success this season. After Brady was sacked 13 times through the team’s first seven games, the line shored up, and Brady has been sacked just three times in their past seven games. It’s no coincidence that Brady has looked much better over that time, surpassing 300 passing yards four times in that span compared to once in the first seven games.
The catalyst to that success came when the Patriots settled on their current line configuration — left tackle Nate Solder, left guard Dan Connolly, center Bryan Stork, right guard Ryan Wendell and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer. Since Stork and Connolly both returned from concussions in Week 8, those five have started each game, developing a valuable sense of cohesion that Scarnecchia believes is the key to their better play.
“It can’t be understated,” Scarnecchia said. “The more you can keep the same guys doing the same things over and over again, the more they understand playing with one another and what things were said up there and how important it is to be on the same page and see the screen through the same set of eyes. That’s no mystery recipe, that’s always the recipe for success.
“I’m happy for all those guys. I’m really happy for the way they have progressed and come along. I’m happy for [first-year offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo], he’s done a great job coaching those guys. I think that there has to be a certain amount of satisfaction, but I don’t think anyone can be overly satisfied at this point. They have a lot to play for going forward, and I wish them nothing but the best of success.”
Scarnecchia spent 30 years with the Patriots franchise, serving as offensive line coach for the past 15 seasons prior to this year. Since he’s retired, he’s enjoyed being able to join the Patriots in giving back to the community, including Thursday’s event where he spent time interacting with blood donors and the children of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He was joined by Patriots alumni, including team Hall of Famer Steve Nelson, Jim Murphy and Ed Toner.
“I’ve never had a chance to participate in anything like this because I’ve always been working,” Scarnecchia said. “I think this is a great thing, and I’m happy to be part of it.”