FOXBORO, Mass. — Some of the NFL’s best pass rushers — Cameron Wake, DeMarcus Ware, Jason Pierre-Paul, Tamba Hali, Trent Cole, Dwight Freeney and Brian Orakpo — have lined up over Patriots left tackle Matt Light this season, but New England’s 33-year-old has held his own over the course of the year.
The challenge will intensify this week when the Broncos trot out defensive end Elvis Dumervil and outside linebacker Von Miller, who have combined for 19 sacks this season.
It’s just another week in Light’s world.
“From my point of view, it’s been that way for roughly 11 seasons,” Light said Wednesday.
Light has played well this season, and his consistency has been important to a New England offensive line that has started nine players in 2011, including four centers and two right tackles. Light, left guard Logan Mankins and Brian Waters have been the only linemen to start all 13 games, but Waters didn’t even join the team until Week 1.
With so much uncertainty during Light’s offseason — the free agent had shoulder surgery, and there was no guarantee he’d re-sign, particularly after the Patriots used a first-round pick on tackle Nate Solder — his role has been one of the utmost reliability for his linemates and coaching staff.
The most significant example came in Week 6 against the Cowboys when Light hurt his ankle during the Patriots’ game-winning touchdown drive. Light struggled to stand up in order to keep the Patriots from wasting their final timeout, and he stayed in to block Ware for the last two plays. If Light stayed on the ground, the outcome could have been completely different.
“I’m healthy,” Light said. “I’m happy about that. Going out there and working with those guys, I’ve got a great crew. Old man B-Waters, my trusty sidekick Logan and all those guys. The guys that have filled in at center, they’ve all done a phenomenal job. [Sebastian Vollmer] and Nate, those guys are playing really well. It’s a fun room to be in right now.”
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick acknowledged Light’s importance, especially after he was forced to pace himself after surgery.
“Matt has played very well,” Belichick said. “He’s had a solid year. He missed a little bit of that first week of training camp, but after that, he’s done everything that everybody else has done. Real experienced player that’s seen a lot of football, seen a lot of good guys out there, competed well. Matt works really hard every week to be ready to go. He’s a very good competitor, smart guy, has good technique, has a lot of experience out there. We’ll need it this week. Those guys, they do a good job.”