Brady to face Cowboys and pass-rush star Ware

The offensive line struggled to keep Tom Brady upright in the

Patriots’ last game. Fixing that could be a tough job in their next

one.

New England plays Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys and

pass-rushing star DeMarcus Ware on the same field where the New

York Jets sacked Brady four times. The Patriots still won, 30-21

last Sunday.

But every hit the NFL’s reigning MVP takes could threaten his

health and the team’s welfare.

And Ware, who already has five sacks in four games, is the

defender most likely to smack him.

”He can get after a quarterback as good as anyone we play,”

Brady said Wednesday. ”If he gets going early, he’s going to be a

problem all day, so we’ve got to make sure we really account for

him on every play.”

The Cowboys’ first-round draft pick in 2005 had 80 sacks

entering this season. He’s officially a linebacker but moves all

over the field and can rush the passer from any spot. That ability

requires offensive linemen to be especially alert.

Lose sight of him and your quarterback is likely to end up on

the ground if he can’t get rid of the ball in time. Especially if

that quarterback is Brady, who occasionally jokes about his lack of

elusiveness.

Patriots left guard Logan Mankins knows he and his fellow

blockers can’t afford another performance like the one against the

Jets. Two of the four sacks came in the last two minutes of the

first half.

”It was all breakdowns,” he said. ”It was all mental stuff

that shouldn’t have happened. We cut guys loose. We had them

accounted for, we just didn’t get them. Anytime you make that many

mental errors and they result in sacks, it’s pretty

disappointing.

”If you don’t learn from it, it’s going to happen every week

and you’re not going to win making the same mistakes every

week.”

In the first four games, Brady was sacked a total of just four

times. That’s the kind of blocking the Patriots (4-1) would like to

see again.

But the offensive line has new starters at three positions –

center Dan Connolly, right guard Brian Waters and right tackle Nate

Solder. Tackle Matt Light and Mankins are in their seventh seasons

as starters on the left side.

In his only game against the Patriots, a 48-27 New England win

in 2007, Ware had one sack. The Cowboys had three in the game,

including one by Greg Ellis that forced a fumble that was returned

for a touchdown by Jason Hatcher.

Patriots defensive end Andre Carter, an 11-year veteran with

66.5 career sacks, is impressed by Ware.

”He’s an all-around football player,” Carter said. ”You can

label him as a linebacker, but he’s just a complete athlete. So why

not use that level of athleticism to try to make plays and be

disruptive. And it seems like he is disruptive every play.”

Against a strong pass rush, it becomes more important for a

quarterback to spot his open receivers quickly and get rid of the

ball early to avoid being sacked.

”Anytime a quarterback is limited in the amount of time that he

has to dissect a play or hold on to the ball, then you don’t make

as good throws or as good reads,” Brady said.

Ware’s five sacks tie him for fourth in the NFL. The Cowboys

(2-2) are tied for eighth in the NFL with 13 sacks. They also have

Anthony Spencer with three sacks and Hatcher with two, although

Hatcher missed the 34-30 loss to the Detroit Lions with a calf

injury before last Sunday’s bye.

”They really get pressure on the quarterback from everybody,”

Brady said.

But Ware is the most dangerous.

”They move him around,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said.

”It’s hard to call a play and say, ‘Well, he’s going to be here.

This is how we’re going to deal (with) him.’

”You’re not ever sure exactly where he’s going to be, depending

on the call they have and what adjustments they make within that

call to what you’re doing,” he added. ”That’s a big challenge.

He’s a heck of a football player. He’s really fast, explosive. …

He comes up the middle. He comes outside. He’s a tough matchup

problem wherever he is on the field.”

The Patriots have tight end Rob Gronkowski, an excellent

blocker, to help. And running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis has

improved on his blocking.

Even with that, the Patriots could have a difficult time keeping

the strong, speedy Ware away from Brady.

Ware ”is one of the best players in the league,” Mankins said.

”He’s a defensive end, outside linebacker guy that really gets

after the quarterback. He’s got a ton of sacks in his career

already and he wreaks a lot of havoc up there. He makes a lot of

plays. He makes it tough on the line. He’s a special player.”

And, with his defensive teammates, the Cowboys are a threat to

Brady.

”The tackles and tight ends know they’re up for a challenge,”

Brady said. ”As a quarterback, you don’t just drop back there and

hold (the ball) and see how long you can hold it all day because,

eventually, they’re going to get there.”