FOXBORO, Mass. — Just a week after the Patriots faced the best collective group of pass rushers they'll see all season, they'll be squaring off against the NFL's best player at singlehandedly wreaking havoc in the offensive backfield.
Linebacker DeMarcus Ware will lead the Cowboys to Gillette Stadium on Sunday, and if history is any indication, he'll find a way to get to quarterback Tom Brady. At the very least, Brady and the offensive line will be forced to continuously account for Ware before the snap and do what they can to make sure he doesn't ruin their offensive rhythm.
"He can get after a quarterback as good as anyone we play," Brady said. "He's powerful. He's fast off the edge. He's got a bunch of different moves. It's not like you just set on the speed-rush and he'll speed-rush you and then he'll power you right into the quarterback. … 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."
Ware already has five sacks through four games this season, and the 11th overall pick in the 2005 draft has been off to an historic start to his career. He's got 85 sacks in 100 games — second only to Reggie White's 105 quarterback takedowns through his first career 100 games — and he has recorded at least a half sack in 61 games.
There's good reason for Bill Belichick referring to Ware in the same breath as Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor, who played for the Giants for 10 years of Belichick's tenure. Ware primarily lines up on the right side of the defense, which will make it a tough day for Patriots left tackle Matt Light.
"I don't think it's any mystery that he's a big key to that front, but look, unfortunately for us, he's not the only one up there that's making a lot of plays in that defense," Light said. "The thing that makes him unique is that he's a threat on both sides of the ball, even in the middle depending on how they use him, and obviously even dropping into coverage. It will be a big contest for us up front, definitely."
If Ware really gets it going, the Patriots will have to load up his side of the ball, either by using tight end Rob Gronkowski on that side or by loading up a rotation of tackles along with Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder, depending who starts.
"He's a great player, and you've got to be on your toes when facing him," Gronkowski said. "He's going to be at all different positions on the field, and wherever he is, we've definitely got to take care of him."
Ware doesn't do it alone, either, but he is great at opening lanes for other players. He made a quick spin move three weeks ago against the Redskins to beat a double team on the left side of the line, which forced quarterback Rex Grossman out of the pocket. As Grossman scrambled, linebacker Anthony Spencer chased him from behind to force a fumble that ended the game.
Because Ware can get an entire defense rolling, the Patriots know they've got to employ all 11 guys on offense to neutralize his effectiveness.
"We've got to get open as soon as possible," wide receiver Deion Branch said. "They've got great players. Coach has the right system for the right guys. For us, the front line is going to do a great job. We know it. We just have to do our job of getting open as fast as possible."