They have one of the league's least mobile QBs in Kerry Collins, yet he has been sacked only seven times this year. Tennessee has had the same line coach, Hall of Fame guard Mike Munchak, since 1997 and the same run-first philosophy since Jeff Fisher became head coach in '94. Center Kevin Mawae, a 15-year vet, and tackles Michael Roos and David Stewart (both signed through 2013) are the mainstays.
Imagine having two young tackles (Ryan Clady, 22; Ryan Harris, 23) playing in front of a quarterback who puts it up 35 times a game; then imagine those two blockers surrendering a half sack apiece through 12 games. Believe it. On Sunday against the Jets, Denver's line proved it's not one-dimensional: Peyton Hillis, the Broncos' fifth starting running back of the year, gashed the Jets for 129 yards.
Trying to protect backup passer Brad Johnson and open holes for Marion Barber at midseason, this unit looked old and creaky as opponents loaded the box against the immobile Johnson. With Tony Romo (broken finger) back and defenses retreating from the line, Dallas has regained its versatility, and Flozell Adams appears reborn at left tackle. The Cowboys still aren't the consistent drive-blocking run team they were in '07, partly because of an unsettled situation at left guard. (Kyle Kosier tore ligaments in his foot.) Dallas is hoping hefty Montrae Holland can do the job.
Atlanta was desperate for a left tackle and drafted one, Sam Baker out of USC, in the first round in April. He played well for five weeks, then went out with hip and back injuries. Former starter Todd Weiner has filled in effectively, and the other four linemen—Harvey Dahl and Justin Blalock at guard, Todd McClure at center and Tyson Clabo, a former guard, at right tackle—have been solid. Only the Giants are rushing for more yards per game than Atlanta, and the Falcons have allowed only 1.1 sacks per game. This once-anonymous unit is beginning to make a name for itself.
TENN SPOT Continuity in coaching and schemes has helped keep Collins (5) safe.