Bryan Stork Held His Ground vs. Bengals, Patriots Followed Suit

Using a difference combination along the offensive line on Sunday night, the Patriots unlocked the Bengals defensive front. (NFL Game Rewind)

Using a different combination along the offensive line on Sunday night, the Patriots found a way to unlock the Bengals defensive front. (NFL Game Rewind)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

It has been trial and error for the New England Patriots. But there were very few errors involved when the Patriots deployed a different combination on the interior offensive line against the then-undefeated Cincinnati Bengals Sunday night.

With two-year starting center Ryan Wendell over at right guard, Dan Connolly opposite him at left guard, and rookie Bryan Stork in the middle, the pieces fit into place. And those pieces changed the complexion of New England’s offense on the way to unlocking Cincinnati’s defense.

It it began with aggressiveness at the line of scrimmage. Stork, a fourth-round pick in May, was an integral part of it. The Week 5 game marked only the second start of his season and NFL career, but aside from false start and holding penalties in the third quarter, the game proved to not be too fast for him.

Sometimes, he was too fast for it.

The Florida State product held his own at the point of attack over the course of his 87 snaps. He got to the second level with a sense of urgency to seal the inside linebackers out of the run. He forged ahead while Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen tallied 203 rushing yards on 36 carries, with 64 of them arriving on 13 carries through the A-gaps, according to Pro Football Focus.

(NFL Game Rewind)

(NFL Game Rewind)

Stork stood apart for his alertness; for the way in which he searched and attacked the teeth of a Cincinnati defense missing its Pro Bowl run-enforcing linebacker Vontaze Burfict.

The 6’4”, 310-pounder’s primary work was rooted against the defensive tackles aligned across from him, though. It was there that he helped stifle the likes of veteran Domata Peko, former second-round pick Devon Still, as well as two-time All-Pro Geno Atkins.

That was seen when he was uncovered and reached for a combination block as the outskirts began to close in. In many ways, it consequently cleared the middle for quarterback Tom Brady to scramble.

(NFL Game Rewind)

(NFL Game Rewind)

Stork’s alertness was met with strength when the Patriots went to play action. That was seen as he delivered with powerful hand replacement versus swim and spin moves. And it was seen as he followed through his blocks with a downhill demeanor from the cleats on up.

It allowed the constituents of New England’s backfield to do the same.

(NFL Game Rewind)

(NFL Game Rewind)

It made a difference.

After a week in which Brady spent an average of 2.19 seconds from snap to throw, the quarterback was able to make the most of his time on Oct. 5, stepping up into the pocket and delivering passes to receivers deeper down the field.

Although Brady only spent an average of 2.26 seconds before passing this time around, there was a difference in the quality of those seconds. It was about time as well as space.

He had enough of it, in turn, distributing the ball to eight different targets in summation of a 23-of-35 a passing performance with 292 yards and two touchdowns.

It was, however, a collective effort and it began up front. Connolly’s pull blocks and Wendell’s experience carried over at guard. And as a result, things flourished outward. Tackles Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer appeared comfortable in their responsibilities, ranging from the width of their stances during run blocks, to the depth of drops during pass protection.

(NFL Game Rewind)

(NFL Game Rewind)

The two bookends had reinforcements in the B-gaps, and they were able to control the C-gaps with their plant feet and kick slides. And despite tight end Rob Gronkowski’s lapse against defensive end Robert Geathers, the overall starting unit did not allow a sack or a quarterback hit by the time the Patriots notched a 41-17 victory.

Stork did not allow a hurry.

With continuity evading the Patriots through the initial month of the season, there’s something to be said for what the Patriots found at Gillette Stadium on Sunday night. From left to right, Solder, Connolly, Stork, Wendell and Vollmer will be the nucleus moving forward. They will be, because while not every runway or pocket will be clean, the group proved its integrity as the foundation for New England’s offense to build from.

No. 66 will be at the center of it.

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5 Responses to “Bryan Stork Held His Ground vs. Bengals, Patriots Followed Suit”

  1. Paul Hayes says:

    Hopefully we’ve found our center. So far he’s the only player from this years draft to make any impact. Still not sold on Connolly and Wendell holding it together for the entire season. I’m still scratching my head that we didn’t sign a FA guard or center. There were several available at team friendly contracts. We’ll see what we’ve got in Buffalo. Their DL is going to be a handful. If we can play well against their line we’ll be ok.

    • MaineMan says:

      “I’m still scratching my head that we didn’t sign a FA guard or center. There were several available at team friendly contracts.”

      Really? Not that I saw. Who were they and how much did they sign for?

  2. Jack says:

    It’s great news hearing that Stork is working out. This was badly, badly needed. Was he a fourth-rounder? Chalk up at least one starter to the 2014 draft. What we really need for Easley to start coming on. I haven’t seen much of him or heard much of him so far. Come on, Easley!

  3. Paul Lanehart says:

    I like the 315 LB Stork at center but weak Wendell isn’t going to hold up at RG nor Conolly at LG. They got away at Cincinnati where Atkins isn’t the same after an ACL injury. Kyle and Mario Williams with Dareus are going to crush weak Wendell and Conolly at Guard. We need to get Cannon coached to thinking and playing like a guard as well as Fleming up to speed because Conolly and Wendell aren’t good enough to win a Championship. The better defenses will expose them. The best thing would be trade whatever it takes to bring in an impact anchor on the line. A #2 and #3 or 4 pick could convince a team to part with a standout guard who can also play tackle. If the line had a true anchor it would give Brady’s weapons time to work open. Edelman,Lafell,Gronk, Wright aren’t dynamic but if given time they are solid and Brady can get the ball to them consistently. Gronk lost a step due to his injuries but is adjusting to use his size more. Dobson could develop but looks like a bust so far. The other 4 look to be the main guys and at least they have size. Wright is going to be huge for us. He is 6’4 230 with WR speed. He also has a 36″ vertical and his arms are freakishly long with giant hands over 11″. He is a difference maker and in some ways better than Hernandez.

    • MaineMan says:

      “The best thing would be trade whatever it takes to bring in an impact anchor on the line. A #2 and #3 or 4 pick could convince a team to part with a standout guard who can also play tackle.”

      I think it might be difficult to find a team that has even five standout OL as starters, much less one that has so much OL depth and is so unconcerned about injury that they’d be willing to part with a “standout” OL who can’t crack their starting five. If there’s such a guy, I’d like to know who it is.

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