Ch-ch-changes, There’s gonna have to be a different man
The Patriots are looking to make some needed additions at tight end this week as they prepare for the Jets on Monday Night Football next week. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport has reported that the Patriots are signing former Jets and Giants tight end Eric Tomlinson to the 53-man roster.
Yesterday, Field Yates of ESPN reported that the team was bringing back veteran Ben Watson. Watson was signed this spring but was suspended through the first four games by the league. The team then balked at adding him to the roster, releasing him. Bill Belichick said at the time that there just wasn’t a roster spot for Watson at this time. Apparently, now there is room.
Matt LaCosse was injured early in the Giants game and reportedly has an injured MCL that will require him to miss several weeks. He’s been dealing with nagging injuries all year. A roster spot was opened up when the Patriots placed fullback Jakob Johnson on IR with a shoulder injury.
If the Patriots are to add both Tomlinson and Watson, another corresponding roster move must be made and perhaps it is moving LaCosse to IR. But that isn’t official, just speculation at this point.
The tight end position has been a weak spot for the team through the first six games of the season. LaCosse has only 3 catches for 55 yards while Izzo has made 6 receptions for 114. But neither has done a consistent job in the blocking department. Which is something that has really hurt the Patriots running game.
The Patriots were starting from scratch this year, with all three TEs from the 2018 roster gone. Rob Gronkowski retired and Dwayne Allen signed with Miami and is now a free agent, while Jacob Hollister is with Seattle and was just added to their 53-man roster.
If there is one area that the Patriots front office neglected this spring, it is the tight end position. After losing all three including a Hall of Famer in Gronkowski, the team opted to bypass several viable tight ends in the draft and instead, signed veterans Watson and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Seferian-Jenkins was given his release to attend to personal problems and Watson, to date, has yet to suit up in a game. Izzo returned from IR and later the team added LaCosse.
Watson is an experienced pass catcher and should immediately help in attacking the seams of the defenses. Tomlinson who has good size at 6’6, 253 has caught only 16 passes, for 193 yards and one touchdown in his NFL career but is known more as a blocker, (something Izzo has struggled with) and STs contributor.
With injuries at WRs Josh Gordon and Phillip Dorsett as well, 1st-round draft pick N’Keal Harry is expected to be back at practice tomorrow. While he has been active in the meeting room with the offense and wide receivers as is allowed by the NFL rules while on IR, he hasn’t practiced with the team since training camp. Bill Belichick said yesterday, he’ll have to show he can out and physically compete at practice.
He is eligible to return to the active roster in two weeks after the Wednesday date and, if healthy enough, play against the Ravens on November 3.
The Patriots training camp is seven days and six practices [the seventh practice will begin as this posts] into the 2019 campaign. And the Patriots are blessed to have the same coach and quarterback combination on hand for the 20th consecutive year. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have been a constant in the league that every year suffers a huge amount of turnover.
Brady’s first training camp stands in stark contrast with this one. Back then he was an unheralded, late 6th round draft choice from Michigan who many believed had no shot at a long career in the NFL. But he had an incredible work ethic, a huge chip on his shoulder because of his draft position [which remains], and absolute faith in himself. He introduced himself to Robert Kraft that summer and Kraft recalled, “he looked at me with laser-focus and said, ‘I’m best decision this organization ever made.’”
After 18 years as a starter, Brady has led the Patriots to nine Super Bowl appearances and six wins. He stands in rarified air, no one in the Super Bowl era can come close to those numbers. And every year since his knee injury in 2008, Brady has faced the same questions it seems every summer. Is this the year where he shows his age? Where Brady and the Patriots fall from the heights and re-join the pack of Super Bowl afterthoughts instead of front-runners? Will Brady… fall off a cliff? “Tom Brady is going to be a bum in short order,” Max Kellerman pronounced early in 2016. In the past three years, the Patriots have been to three straight Super Bowls, winning two. But still, the questions remain.
While he claims to ignore the noise… and the trolls on the national beat, we know better. He uses them for an incentive to work harder than his already famous work ethic. He approaches every day and every practice as if he’s that late 6th rounder trying to make the team, instead of a six-time Super Bowl champion.
On Wednesday, he wasn’t scheduled to speak with the media but felt like he should after the offense had a very sloppy, unproductive session. He walked over and told the horde of media that quickly surrounded him to “Fire Away.”
He was quickly asked about his contract status. He’s entering the final year of his deal and was questioned as to he’s comfortable working on a one-year deal. He answered as that 6th round rookie would.
“We’re all day-to-day if you think about it,” he answered. “None of us are really promised anything. So, I’m trying to do the best I can today and just let those [contracts] things sort themselves out… so, we’ll see how it goes.”
Asked about if he’s still having fun out there, even in the stifling heat and humidity yesterday he said, “ Yeah, absolutely. I have a great time, I mean football is – I love the sport. I’ve loved playing it since I was a kid. You know, it’s hard for me to imagine doing anything else in life. I love playing ball, so to still be out here at 41 – soon to be 42 – it’s a pretty great thing for me.”
Brady also addressed the balancing of family time with his preparation and commitment to football, giving a tremendous amount of credit to his wife, Gisele.
“The last couple of years, it’s been great for me to spend the off-seasons with them, and really fill up that bucket and give them the time, support, and love that they need. When I’m here doing my thing, my wife’s got to hold down the fort and she has put a lot on hold over the years to support my dreams. I feel like it’s my responsibility as a husband to do the same for her. She’s happy when I get back to football because she knows how happy I am. It was a great off-season, but now it’s time for football, and I think everyone in our family is prepared for that.”
Brady addressed the turnover of players and coaches and said that it takes a total team effort to get everyone pulling together.
“Well, there’s a lot of turnover every year and you deal with the turnover, and there’s a lot of new guys trying to assimilate into what we’ve done here for a long time. It’s really up to them to get up to speed, and everyone here has got to help them get there. Between the coaches, the veteran players, the leaders – it’s our responsibility to get everyone on the same page, doing the right thing and trying to help us in whatever way they can help us move the ball down the field and score some points.”
Asked about a contract extension and if he’s earned one, Brady poked fun at NBC Sports Boston with all of the polls they’ve conducted during the offseason.
“I don’t know. That’s up for talk show debate. What do you guys think? Should we take a poll? Talk to Mr. Kraft, come on.” Chuckling, he added, “No, like I said, we’ve got a great relationship so we’ll see how it goes.”
So, while the hot-take artists continue to predict the demise of the Patriots and Brady, he remains steadfast in his preparation, commitment to the game and his extremely competitive nature on the field.
Having been at nearly every training camp practice for the past decade, every year I watch him go thru his progressions and throwing motion with my binos looking for the cracks that every hot-take artist claims to be there [and never steps foot in Foxboro] and I don’t see it. If anything, his throwing mechanics are even better than they were a decade ago. He may be in even better shape physically than he was then.
The Patriots offense may struggle early in the 2019 season with the turnover at wide receiver and tight end, but as long as Brady is under center, there is no doubt that they’ll find a way to figure it out. Those national hot take artists will continue the drivel every summer ad nauseam and when he finally does retire or fall off, they’ll celebrate like they had it right all along. Brady has made them all look foolish for a long time. He’s the classic man in the arena that a former President wrote about 67 years before he was born.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt
The Patriots get back to practice this morning and look for Brady to be looking to get the offense moving forward right off the bat… It’s inevitable.
The New England Patriots head to what seems an annual trip to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers in a very important game for both teams. The Patriots, courtesy of a bizarre last play of the game in Miami blew a golden opportunity to take over the #1 seed if they win tomorrow. The Chiefs were beaten by the Chargers in another wacky finish and New England owns the tiebreaker with KC.
Pittsburgh is reeling right now at 7-5-1, having lost three in a row including the last two in bizarre fashion. Their lead in the AFC North is down to just a half-game over the Ravens and with the Patriots and Saints back-to-back in the next two weeks, the playoffs start now for the Steelers.
Yesterday we posted our keys to the game and key matchups where we broke down the game positionally.
So, from a Patriots perspective, here are our Players to Watch on Sunday:
Most times the old cliché, “Player A owns Team B” is really overused and just that a cliché. But in this instance, it is really hard to make that argument. Brady overall is 11-2 against the Steelers but since 2006, he’s 7-1 against what is always one of the best teams in the AFC. In the last four regular-season meetings, Brady has thrown 11 TDs, just 1 INT, completing 70.6 percent of his passes for 1240 yard (an average of 310 yards per game and 9.84 per pass) for a passer rating of 127.7.
The Steelers haven’t changed the way they approach the way they play defense against Brady and the Patriots since Brady’s first matchup with them back in 2001 playoffs. The only time they really changed things up was back in the 2011 season, a Steelers 25-17 win. They rely on their pass rush getting home and creating pressure. The Steelers are 2nd in the NFL with 45 sacks on the season. T.J. Watt has 10 and they have four players with five or more sacks. But against the three best QBs they’ve faced this season (Patrick Mahomes, Philip Rivers, and Matt Ryan), they’ve allowed 910 yards, 8 TDs 0 Ints for a passer rating of 126.7.
Brady has always known how to attack this Pittsburgh defense, it holds no allusions for him. Unless they change the way they approach things tomorrow, there is no reason to believe that the trend won’t continue.
The Patriots big tight end has had unprecedented success against the Steelers as well as Brady. In six career games against Pittsburgh, Gronkowski has reeled in 39 catches, 664 yards, and 8 TDs. His 110.6 yards per game average is the most he’s had against any team that he’s played more than once.
The Steelers defense has struggled against tight ends. Travis Kelce earlier in the season hurt them for seven catches, 109 yards, and 2 TDs. Last week, they played five different defenders on Raiders tight end, Jared Cook and still couldn’t stop him as he had seven catches for 116 yards. Gronkowski took over the game in the fourth quarter a year ago in Pittsburgh hauling in 9 passes for 168 yards and a two-point conversion.
The Steelers have said that they’re going to change up the way they cover Gronkowski this week and may switch up their looks on the big tight end. With lingering back and ankle injuries, he’s been slowed considerably this season. But bad news for the Steelers this week? He had arguably his best game of the season against Miami last week catching 8 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown.
The Patriots best cornerback will have his work cut out for him this week. The Steelers have several excellent targets in the passing game. But Gilmore will be worried about the just the top two, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Antonio Brown. We’d expect that Gilmore will be covering both at times on Sunday and neither will be an easy receiver to shadow. Brown has been the Steelers go-to guy since he entered the league but this year, Smith-Schuster has had more receptions and yards.
Gilmore is having a fantastic Pro-Bowl-type of a season for the Patriots and has been their best at covering the opposition’s best wide receiver this year. Pro Football Focus had him as their 2nd rated CB on 3rd or 4th down this season behind just Marlon Humphrey of the Ravens. An interesting tidbit via Jeff Howe of the Atlantic. The Patriots are 8-0 when Gordon doesn’t allow a TD and 1-4 when he does. Gilmore is currently tied for 3rd place among all CBs with passes defensed with 13.
The feeling here is that Gilmore will go one-on-one with Smith-Schuster which should be a fascinating matchup to watch. He does better against bigger receivers and Smith-Schuster is 6’1 while Brown is 5’10. I’d expect Brown to be doubled with a corner and a safety. Eli Rogers is expected to be back this week which will be another tough matchup.
The Patriots big wide receiver is someone who has had pretty good success against the Steelers in the past and played them often while a member of the Browns. Included in that was a 17-yard touchdown late in regulation that tied the opener, which ended up in a tie. Now he’ll be going with a much better cast of characters against the same Steelers team that he’s faced before. And with a much better quarterback.
Gordon has gradually learned the Patriots offense on the fly since making his first appearance in the Week 4 game against Miami. And since then, he’s put up some very decent numbers (39 catches for 701 yards and three touchdowns) which is very impressive considering he had to learn the Patriots offense in mid-stream. How many WRs have struggled here after having an entire offseason to learn the WR route tree? Gordon’s 18-yards per catch average is the best among NFL WRs since Week 4. And that is troubling to Pittsburgh Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler. “Shoot, he’s a big man that can run,” he said. “He’s a deep-ball guy. If you look for anybody that’s going deep for them, it’s probably him.”
With the Steelers putting a lot of stock in slowing down Gronkowski this week, that will mean a lot of single coverage on Gordon. And this might be the time for him to have that one big monster game that has been lacking from his resume this season.
The Patriots captain and their center fielder at the back end of their defense will have to have a big game on Sunday against a very potent Steelers passing attack. Between Brown and Smith-Schuster they have two of the more explosive wide receivers in the game. Added into the mix is Eli Rogers who tore his ACL in the playoff loss to Jacksonville last year and has spent the season on PUP. Now he’s healthy and is expected to be activated for Sunday’s game. That gives McCourty, even more, to be worried about on the back end.
Rogers career high for catches and yards? The 2017 AFC Championship Game against the Patriots where he caught seven passes for 66 yards. He’s someone that will have to be on the Patriots and McCourty’s radar if he gets his hands on the ball.
One of the more underrated aspects of McCourty’s game and that of the Patriots defense is tackling. This week, in particular, the Patriots have to limit the YAC (yards after the catch). When they’ve been successful, they’ve not allowed teams to run after they’ve caught the ball. McCourty will be a big, big part of that this week.
Sunday’s American Football Conference Championship Game pits the two teams that have ruled the AFC this millennium. Including next month’s game in Houston, either the Steelers or Patriots will have represented the AFC in the Super Bowl ten times since 2001.
In the 1994 season Bobby Ross and Stan Humphries ended the Buffalo Bills’ reign of four straight AFC championships, with their San Diego Chargers blown out by San Francisco in the 49ers’ last Super Bowl victory. Since then the Pats (7) and Steelers (4) have combined for eleven conference championships, laying waste to the NFL’s vision of parity and every team taking a turn as the best in the league.
The Patriots have had sixteen consecutive winning seasons; Pittsburgh has had only one losing season since 2000, back in 2003. New England has won ten or more games 15 times since 2001, including 14 straight times. The Steelers have eleven double-digit winning years in that time span, including the last three in a row. The Patriots have won four Super Bowls this century to Pittsburgh’s two. Any and every Steeler fan will quickly respond to that fact by pointing out that the Black and Gold still lead the Patriots by the count of six Vince Lombardi Trophies to four overall – even though in most cases they are not old enough to remember four of those victories.
The Basics: Who, What, When, Where and Why
Who: 13-5 Pittsburgh Steelers (#3 seed, AFC North champs) at 15-2 New England Patriots (#1 seed, AFC East champs)
What: 2016-17 American Football Conference Championship Game
When: Sunday January 22 at 6:40 pm ET on CBS
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough MA
Why: Winner represents the AFC in Super Bowl 51 at Houston on February 5
Weather, Odds and More
Weather: Cloudy with 30% chance of light rain in the late afternoon. Chance of precipitation increases to 70% later in the evening. Winds from the northeast at about 15 mph. Game time temperature of about 33° F.
Keep in mind that this is New England, so the forecast could very well change between now and kickoff.
Coaches: Mike Tomlin is in his tenth year as head coach of the Steelers, having taken over for Bill Cowher in 2007. He has a 103-57 (.644) regular season record, finishing no worse than 8-8 in 2012 and 2013. Tomlin’s teams have made the playoffs seven out of ten times, compiling an 8-5 (.615) post-season record. Under Tomlin the Steelers lost in the wild card game three times and the division round once. Tomlin is 2-0 in the AFCCG and 1-1 in the Super Bowl.
Bill Belichick has compiled a 261-125 overall record in 22 seasons as an NFL head coach. In 17 years with the Patriots Belichick has amassed a 237-115 (.673) regular season record and 24-10 (.706) post season record. Under his guidance the Patriots have won four Super Bowls, six conference championships and fourteen division titles. This will be a post-merger record sixth consecutive time the Patriots have advanced to the AFCCG, and eleventh time they have done so under the Hoodie’s watch. The Pats are 5-5 in those games but only 1-3 in their last four conference championships.
Odds: This game opened up with the Patriots a six-point favorite, and that line has remained relatively steady thus far. Most outlets publish the over/under at 50½, with a handful of venues still listing the total at the original 51 points. New England has covered better than any other team in league this year, going 14-3 against the spread. The Pats 7-2 home ATS record is also the best in the NFL. After last week’s game at Kansas City Pittsburgh is 10-7 ATS, 6-3 on the road. Both clubs went over six times and under ten times in the 2016 season.
There is also this full game for your viewing pleasure. The NFL is very proactive about keeping these gems out of the public’s hands, so be forewarned; I don’t think it will be available for very long.
Here is a look at how the two teams compare statistically; the numbers reflect an average per game (or per play), rather than aggregate totals. Per-game and per-play stats are used rather than gross totals because that makes the rankings more meaningful, and because they provide a better context in regards to what to expect in any given game.
Numbers in green indicate a top-ten ranking while underlined green is top-five; red indicates a bottom-ten ranking and underlined red is bottom-five. Please note that the information below includes post-season games, so it will likely differ from official stats found elsewhere which are only for the regular season.
Pittsburgh is a well balanced team with legitimate championship aspirations. On offense the Steelers have explosive quick-strike weapons as well as the capability of methodically controlling the ball to drive the length of the field.
New England Patriot Offense versus Pittsburgh Steeler Defense
Scoring per Game: Patriots 27.9 (4th); Steelers 19.7 (8th)
Points per Play: Patriots .423 (4th); Steelers .320 (9th)
Touchdowns per Game: Patriots 3.2 (4th); Steelers 2.2 (8th)
Red Zone Touchdowns per Game: Patriots 2.4 (4th); Steelers (12th)
Red Zone Touchdown Percentage: Patriots 64.1 (8th); Steelers 47.5 (5th)
Yardage per Game: Patriots 386 (4th); Steelers 334 (9th)
First Downs per Game: Patriots 21.8 (7th); Steelers 19.3 (10th)
Yards per Play: Patriots 5.8 (7th); Steelers 5.4 (13th)
Yards per Drive: Patriots 6.66 (1st); Steelers 32.2 (15th)
Points per Drive: Patriots 2.53 (5th); Steelers 1.87 (11th)
Efficiency: Total Weighted DVOA: Patriots 34.0% (1st); Steelers 20.0% (3rd)
Team Efficiency: Offense DVOA: Patriots 21.1% (2nd); Steelers 11.1% (8th)
Team Efficiency: Defense DVOA: Patriots -1.5% (16th); Steelers -4.7% (11th)
Special Teams DVOA: Patriots 2.7% (7th); Steelers 0.0% (16th)
If you are still reading at this point, congratulations. Apologies for the lack of brevity. Pittsburgh has a very good team and deserves to be in this championship game. That being said the Patriots are just a bit better in all phases. Between the better coaches, better quarterback, and home field advantage the Pats should win. Enjoy the game, it should be a classic.
Patriots to Rely on the Strength of Gronk and Bennett
With the release of the 20 players on Saturday, the Patriots have made their initial 53-man roster. It is interesting to note that the breakdown consists of essentially 4 WRs (five if you count Matthew Slater), 4 TEs and 4 RBs with a FB (James Develin).
The good news is that Danny Amendola will indeed begin the season on the roster and not on PUP and the fact that they kept just four wideouts to begin means that rookie Malcolm Mitchell must be very close to returning to action.
So what can we expect to see from the Patriots offense based on the personnel they’ve kept. One thing is for sure, with four TEs on the roster, you can expect a lot of the two-TE run heavy sets in either “12” personnel (1 RB, 2TEs, 2WRs), or in the “22” personnel with (2RBs, 2TEs, 1 WR).
With Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett, the Patriots have bookend “Y” tight ends that can be excellent run blockers with James Develin leading the way. We can expect a lot of run-heavy formations like this with either LaGarrette Blount or James White in the backfield. With the extra blockers in-line, it will open up some holes in the running game and put the offense into favorable down and distance scenarios.
Of course, it also opens up the play-action passing scenario as well. Opponents will have to respect the run and with Gronkowski and Bennett, they’ll be able to face a base defense with each at times getting isolated on a linebacker.
With Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan getting the majority of reps initially, we can expect them to each rotate in and out of the slot. Hogan is a bit bigger and faster in the straight line but not as quick in the short areas and out of cuts. They’ll move them around to find favorable matchups but look for Hogan to take over the old Brandon LaFell role as the “X” until Mitchell is healed up.
White and D.J. Foster are the third down and passing backs and each brings a little bit of a different element to the table. White has the experience and knows the offense inside and out. Foster is still learning it, as he missed a ton of time this summer. He still needs to work on his protection and ball security skills but he’s electric in the open field.
It will be interesting to see if the Patriots move him in motion and slide him into the slot on occasion, something he did in college at Arizona State. He and White give them a couple of nice extra pieces in the passing game. Jimmy Garoppolo will have some intriguing weapons to work with now.
The key is to get the rust off of Amendola as quickly as possible and hopefully get Mitchell back on the field as soon as possible. They have some very impressive pieces to exploit mismatches on the field with. The problem is, in the short term, that most of them haven’t worked together as a unit all summer.
There’s lot of work to get done before they head out to Arizona to face the Cardinals. But the coaches and veterans can get it moving in the right direction as soon as they get back to practice. It is time for Jimmy G. and the veterans on the offense to step up and put the work in. Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]
Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.
The Patriots were victorious in their much ballyhooed duel with the Bills on Sunday in Buffalo. After hearing about the fearsome Bills defense and pass rush in the week prior, Tom Brady calmly eviscerated the Buffalo secondary as he’s done so many times before.
Brady orchestrated the Pats offense to near perfection on Sunday passing for 466 yards, three touchdowns as the New England offense put up 40 points on Rex Ryan’s defense. Perhaps the scariest thought of all for Ryan on Monday when looking at the film is that Brady and Co. left plenty of plays on the field and there were a lot more points that could have been scored.
We’ll take a final look at some of the key plays on Sunday before we move on to Jacksonville. Using the NFL Game Pass’ All-22 coaches’ film, we get a good look at the plays and how they developed.
Gronkowski 36-Yard Pass From Brady: The play that really set the tone for the day was the first quarter pass from Brady to Gronkowski that went for 36 yards. The Patriots lined up going with an empty backfield and five wide receivers, spreading out the Bills defense at the Buffalo 46-yard line.
Brady was in the shotgun, Gronkowski was aligned inside of fellow TE Michael Williams on the right side at the numbers. He runs a deep route right down the seam and Brady has a very clean pocket and with no one near him is able to step up and fire a laser downfield to Gronk, who has a step on CB Ronald Darby. Gronk hauls it in and the Patriots are in business at the 10-yard line.
Julian Edelman 9-Yard TD: Later in the same drive the Patriots are at the nine yard line. The Patriots go 4-wide with Dion Lewis in the backfield next to Brady. Edelman is aligned in the right slot, Gronkowski is wide right with Dobson and Amendola split to the left.
At the snap, Gronkowski runs a deep crossing pattern along the back of the end zone. Edelman fakes inside and is wide open with Aaron Williams covering, running to the right along the goal line. Lewis runs out in the right flat and is also open on a shorter route. Brady is able to step up again and the result is an easy pitch and catch for a touchdown.
Dion Lewis 6-Yard Touchdown: One interesting note on Sunday’s game was that the Patriots didn’t attempt a run until Lewis’ touchdown. Although Ryan bristled in his post-game press conference that he still doesn’t know Lewis’ name, perhaps he should. Lewis racked up 138 yards of offense with 40 yards rushing on six carries including this touchdown and 98 yards receiving. He forced eight missed tackles again, making it 16 on the season already and is becoming a key component of the offense.
On his touchdown run, the Patriots had two wide receivers split left with Dobson out wide and Edelman in the slot. Gronkowski and Scott Chandler were lined up in-line to the right side.
Lewis took a handoff from Brady and was attempting to go straight up the middle, which was blocked. But Gronkowski made a terrific block, sealing Mario Williams on the right side and Lewis was able to bounce right thru the hole and carried the pile into the end zone. As much as we rave (and rightfully so), about Gronkowski’s receiving capabilities, he’s a devastating blocker and this play shows why he’s the best overall tight end in the business….and it isn’t even close.
Gronkowski 2-Yard Touchdown: Later in the first half, the Patriots are set up on the Bills 2-yard line. Gronkowski is aligned wide to the left with Edelman in the slot. Aaron Dobson is lined up wide right, with TE Michael Williams inline on the right side. Running back LaGarrette Blount is the lone back with Brady.
The Bills defense was in disarray, no one knows who is supposed to cover Gronkowski. Edelman runs a stop route right over the goal line, while Gronk runs a deep crossing pattern to the right along the back of the end zone. Again, he beats the coverage easily and Brady has an easy toss for the touchdown.
Danny Amendola 29-Yard Catch: The play that sealed the game came late in the fourth quarter. With the Patriots on the Bills 46-yard line, Aaron Dobson is lined up wide left, with Amendola in the slot. Gronk is lined up wide right, with Williams inline on the right, Edelman in the slot right. Brady is in the shotgun with a lone setback.
Julian Edelman shifts to the left as Brady recognized a safety blitz was coming. Brady positions him perfectly to pick it up. Dobson runs an 8-yard stop route while Amendola runs straight down the numbers on the seam. The coverage is tight but Amendola is able to leap up and make a fantastic catch, coming down with the ball at the Bills 17-yard line. The play setup the final field goal of the day.
The Patriots offense, as good as it was on Sunday against a very good defense, can still get better, the running game for the first two weeks has been an afterthought. Brady missed a couple of throws, (wide open Julian Edelman on 4th and 1), and the receivers had six drops on the day. Brandon LaFell is still on PUP and Scott Chandler hasn’t gotten utilized yet as much as they’d like to.
It is going to be interesting to see how they continue to evolve as the season progresses. Usually the offense starts a little slow and gains momentum as the year goes on. Look back to where the offense was after two weeks in 2014 and the contrast is startling.