On Tuesday, I published a list of players I viewed as unsung heroes in the New England Patriots’ historic Super Bowl LI win over the Atlanta Falcons.
I mentioned Trey Flowers’ gigantic sacks, Malcolm Mitchell’s and Danny Amendola’s clutch fourth-quarter catches and Stephen Gostkowski’s proficiency on kickoffs, with a note that Gostkowski was lucky his missed extra point didn’t come back to bite the Patriots in the behind.
But after rewatching the game Wednesday, I realized I left one deserving name off that list: right tackle Marcus Cannon.
Easily the Patriots’ most improved player this season, Cannon was New England’s best offensive lineman Sunday night. Though he did allow one sack to Falcons breakout star Grady Jarrett, the second-team All-Pro dominated standout edge rusher Vic Beasley, who was a complete non-factor in the game.
Beasley, who led the NFL in sacks this season with 15 1/2, finished with zero sacks and hit quarterback Tom Brady just once in the Patriots’ 34-28 overtime victory. He also did not record a single tackle.
That kind of performance was par for the course this season for Cannon, whose development from much-maligned backup to O-line pillar truly was remarkable. Just look at how he fared against Beasley and Denver Broncos star Von Miller, first-team All-Pros who ranked first and second in the league in sacks.
Beasley and Miller brought opposing quarterbacks to the ground a combined 28 times during the regular season. But in two games against the Patriots — and Cannon — they failed to sack Brady and managed a total of one QB hit.
The rest of the Patriots’ offensive line did not fare nearly as well against the Falcons, but the unit was excellent throughout the season and should only improve in 2017, especially as the interior trio of left guard Joe Thuney (rookie), center David Andrews (second year) and right guard Shaq Mason (second year) continues to accumulate NFL experience.
All five starters are under contract through next season, as is rookie backup Ted Karras. Only third tackle Cameron Fleming is set to hit free agency.
Thumbnail photo via Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports Images
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