Bennett and Gronkowski Present Mismatches Galore
Reviewing the game film from an opponent is always a good way of judging how the Patriots will choose to attack during the next game. We watched the game film of how the Washington Redskins attacked Cleveland and saw the possibilities for the Patriots’ tight ends having obvious mismatches where the Browns couldn’t match up.
After reviewing the Coach’s All-22 game footage from Sunday’s 33-13 blowout victory, it seems that with Tom Brady back at the helm, the Patriots are merely scratching the surface on what they can do with the two tight end sets, either with “12” or “22” personnel.
Of Brady’s 28 completions, 11 went to Bennett and Gronkowski. The 11 combined catches for 176 yards and three touchdowns (all to Bennett) signify that this duo can be dynamic once they add some wrinkles into the passing game.
Of the Patriots 67 offensive snaps, before Jimmy G. came in to take a knee, Gronk and Bennett were on the field for 39 of them at the same time. Of those, Brady passed on just 15 of them, going 11-of-15 for 134 yards, two touchdowns. He also scrambled for two first downs when both the duo drew too many defenders back with them leaving lots of running room.
The beauty of this is, the Patriots have enough weapons on offense that they can play with both or just one of them on the field and still give Brady plenty of options on where to go with the ball. Early in the game, the Browns seemed to be intent on doubling up Gronkowski. That worked to Bennett’s advantage as he either got single coverage or as we’ll see shortly, was left alone. Brady was masterful at finding the open mismatch and exploiting them to the utmost.
We’ve highlighted a couple of plays from Sunday that show how well this tandem is going to work and you can see by the mismatches on the field, that there won’t be many easy assignments for opposing defenses trying to mix and match.
On the Patriots first drive, they lined up at the Cleveland 37-yard line with Trips right (Amendola, Edelman, and Hogan), with Gronkowski split out left. One RB is in the backfield (James White), to Brady’s left. The Browns are showing blitz on the left-hand side by trying to overload on Nate Solder’s gap.
Hogan a deep route on the outside down the numbers taking his defender with him. Edelman and Amendola ran crossing routes from right to left. Gronkowski cut a shallow cross under the wide receivers and had a step on his defender.
Once he caught the ball he turned it up the field and had a ton of room to run, Gronk then made five defenders miss before finally being brought down on the one-yard line. He followed that up with making a great block for LeGarrette Blount’s touchdown run to get the Patriots on the board.
On Brady and Bennett’s first touchdown hookup, the Patriots were lined up in a run formation, using a “21” personnel package with 2 RBs, 2 WRs, and 1 TE. Blount was the deep back in I-formation behind the fullback James Develin. Hogan was split wide right, Edelman wide left.
At the snap Edelman ran straight and deep into the end zone, Hogan ran a drag route across the back of the end zone. Brady sold play action and Bennett stayed in to block. His defender seeing him in blocking mode drifted back to the middle of the end zone towards the passing lane to Hogan.
After a delay, Bennett drifted out in the right flat all alone, Brady flipped him the ball and it was a too easy score for the touchdown. That, in essence, was the game-winning touchdown that put the Patriots up 14-7.
Bennett’s second score came on a 5-yard scoring grab in the second quarter. The Patriots lined up with their “12” personnel package. Gronkowski was split wide right. Hogan and Edelman to the left. Bennett was lined up inline on the left side. James White was the only back and he lined up to Brady’s right in the backfield.
At the snap, Gronk drew double coverage on the right side of the field, and he took them deep into the end zone. Bennett ran a shallow cross, dragging the defender from the left to the right. Coverage was tight but Bennett had enough cushion where Brady put the ball on the money in stride and he had his second touchdown. James White had drifted out of the backfield and was open as well in the middle of the field.
The final play we’ll look at was perhaps their best of all. The Patriots got the opening kickoff of the second half and began to march down the field. At the Browns 37-yard line, the Patriots are in run formation. Both Gronk and Bennett are lined up as blockers on the right in an overload scheme.
James White is the lone deep back and he as well as Brady sell the play action pass perfectly. The outside linebacker on the left bites hard on the fake and rushes up in run support. Both Gronkowski and Bennett run straight down the field on the right. Gronk down the numbers, and Bennett who beat his man cleanly down the numbers. Both are wide open.
The deep safety in the middle of the field is too far away to help. He comes hard but is caught between the two tight ends, one of whom (Gronk) has no one covering him. Brady has already made up his mind. Bennett on the outside has a lot more cushion than Gronk. Brady hits him at the 17-yard line and Bennett does the rest taking it all the win to put the Pats up 30-7.
The amazing thing here is that this triumvirate of the Patriots will only get better. Consider this… Gronkowski is still working his way back from a bad hamstring. Bennett was hurt early in the game, left to have his foot taped when it appeared that he was, at first seriously injured. Brady missed the first four games of the season and was ostensibly knocking off rust on Sunday.
But Bennett hit a career milestone (3 TDs in a game for the first time in his career, coincidentally his first with Brady. Hogan who had reaped the benefit of some good looks with the tight ends dominating had two deep receptions (43, 63 yards), and had his first 100-yard game of his career. And you guessed it…his first with #12.
Josh McDaniels played his cards close to his vest, this game was well in hand and they didn’t show too much on the first go-round. But this was one heck of an opening act for Brady, Gronk, and Bennett. They will only continue to get better, once that “system QB” knocks the rust off and the two TEs are completely healthy.
Posted Under: Patriots Film Room
Tags: 2016 NFL Season 2016 Patriots season Bill Belichick Chris Hogan Cleveland Browns Danny Amendola Jimmy Garoppolo Julian Edelman LaGarrette Blount Martellus Bennett New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots tight ends Rob Gronkowski Tom Brady