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Patriots pass protection improved after they replaced the offensive line coach

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NFL: New England Patriots at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

There is an interesting storyline in Super Bowl LI that you won’t see very often: Father coaching against son.

No, Bill Belichick is not Dan Quinn’s dad (not yet, at least). But New England Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia is that father of Atlanta Falcons assistant Steve Scarnecchia. (And also the dude who got busted for Spygate, spent the last four years at Syracuse, then suddenly got another opportunity in the NFL because the Falcons front office has a lot of New England ties — but that’s beside the point of this article.)

Not only is it surprising though that Steve made his way back into the NFL this year though, it was a bit of a shock that Dante made it back too. Father Scarnecchia retired as the Patriots offensive line coach in 2014 at the age of 65 and was replaced by Dave DeGuglielmo, and of course New England won the Super Bowl that year. But when DeGuglielmo’s contract expired after a tumultuous 2015 season for the o-line, Belichick opted not to renew it. Instead, he convinced his old friend, whom he had won three Super Bowls with, to come back.

The Patriots still had bad news on the offensive line to start the season — tackle Sebastian Vollmer and guard Tre Jackson both went on IR early -- but the pass protection improved by a good margin. Per FootballOutsiders, New England was 19th in adjusted sack rate in 2015, but improved to sixth this season as Tom Brady had one of the best years of his career, and even Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett had some good, even great, moments.

The Seattle Seahawks ranked 25th in adjusted sack rate.

The Patriots offensive line is not loaded with players who came into the NFL as great prospects or as big free agent signings expected to pick up the slack. This season, only Nate Solder was a former first round pick (17th overall), while Joe Thuney went in round three, Shaq Mason in round four, Marcus Cannon in round five, and David Andrews was undrafted.

The talk surrounding Tom Cable and how bad he is for the team will simply not go away. I personally do not believe it’s going to be a magic solution, but I also don’t know that it would hurt the Seahawks either. At least it would end the talk. And for the first time I am actually open to the idea that replacing Cable could be a good thing, as we’ve seen some significant improvements in New England as they head to another Super Bowl, and without some loaded Pro Bowl offensive line like the Dallas Cowboys, Tennessee Titans, and Oakland Raiders.

(The Patriots grade for run blocking actually went down from 2nd in 2015 to ninth in 2016.)

Oh and by the way, the other thing about ALL of this talk -- Pete Carroll isn’t firing Tom Cable. He likes him. He’s standing by him. So it’s also pretty moot.