Patriots O-line gelling for Brady

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THE DAILY NEWS has uncovered the secret behind Tom Brady's resurgence over the last month.

The Patriots are spying again? No.

Gisele's cooking has improved? Think again.

Rob Gronkowski has gotten healthy? Well, that's part of it.

Actually, the biggest reason Brady is on a 14-touchdown, zero-interception roll is as fundamental to football as the oblonged ball itself: Brady has had time to throw the ball.

"We had some growing pains that we were all trying to get used to earlier," Brady said. "Offensive lines, typically, the longer they play together the better they get because they do develop a lot of trust in the guy next to them."

Of the five O-line positions, only left tackle Nate Solder is in the same place he was at the end of 2013. Dan Connolly moved from right guard to left. Ryan Wendell moved from center to right guard to make way for rookie Bryan Stork. Veteran guard Logan Mankins was traded in August.

The Patriots looked sluggish during their 2-2 start, but are rolling with four wins in a row. In those first four games, Brady threw just four touchdown passes and completed 59.1 percent of his passes. He also was sacked nine times.

In his last four, Brady has 14 touchdowns, no picks and a 69.4 completion percentage. He has been sacked just four times. Offense, defense, it doesn't matter. It all starts up front.

"The offensive line really is a metaphor for an offense and a team. Everyone has to complement each other," Brady continued. "You've got to trust that the guy next to you is going to do his job because if he doesn't and you don't trust it, then it's hard for you to do your job."

Brady-Manning XVI

It's kind of clutch that the Eagles-Houston game is at 1 o'clock on Sunday, because the marquee matchup of the weekend (aside from Tampa Bay-Cleveland) is Denver's visit to New England at 4:25 p.m.

Brady's teams hold a 10-5 edge over Manning's overall and are 2-1 since Peyton joined Denver in 2012. Manning passed for two touchdowns and 400 yards, his best ever against New England, in the Broncos' AFC Championship Game win back in January. It's worth noting that Gronkowski, the Patriots' Buick of a tight end, did not play in that game.

Triviality

Houston's Arian Foster can set the record this week for most 100-yard games ever by a player who was not drafted. With whom is he currently tied? A. Willie Parker. B. Priest Holmes. C. Guido Merkens.

Contest winner

Last week, we challenged readers to come up with the combined number of passing yards for the showdown between Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and New Orleans' Drew Brees.

The boys hooked up for 729 yards total (418 for Rodgers, 311 for Brees). Ed Salerno, of Old Forge, Pa., came closest with a guess of 717. Fellow reader Michael Russo, of Langhorne, Pa., gets a tip of the cap for his guess of 716.

Trivia answer

Houston's Arian Foster is tied at 31 with Priest Holmes for the most career games rushing for 100 yards. The Eagles defense, Foster's opponent this week, is 21st against the run - surrendering an average of 116.7 yards per game.


Ed Barkowitz, who is pumped to be 2-1 in his fantasy hockey league, has been writing about fantasy football in the Daily News since 2001.