Gronkowski & staying in to block

September, 26, 2012
9/26/12
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In Tuesday's Patriots mailbag, one question was on how the Patriots utilized tight end Rob Gronkowski in Sunday's 31-30 loss to the Ravens. The assumption was that he was kept in to block more than the norm, which contributed to his quiet day from a pass-catching standpoint (2 for 21 yards).

The goal was to confirm that assumption, so after studying the TV copy of Tom Brady's 49 dropbacks (penalties included), this is how it broke down:

Releasing into routes: 33
Staying in to protect: 16

The 16 might be a bit more than the norm (just a guess, as this isn't something normally charted here), but offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels wasn't spinning things when he said of Gronkowski's limited production, "I think it's just a factor of the ball came out quick sometimes and we had some other people that were in situations to make plays based on what Baltimore did to us."

Those other players were mainly Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker. On the majority of plays that Gronkowski released downfield, the ball was out of Brady's hands to someone else before Gronkowski was at the stem of his route. In particular, the Patriots really seemed to like the one-on-one matchup on the outside against cornerback Cary Williams.

Of the 33 times Gronkowski released down the field, there were just two plays that stood out where perhaps Brady could have looked in his direction as a better choice -- second-quarter throws to Lloyd. It should also be noted that Gronkowski drew one holding penalty, and was held by Ray Lewis another time but it wasn't called.

Of the times that Gronkowski stayed in to block, only once did it seem to be a mistake. But it was a key play -- third-and-14 on the second-to-last drive of the fourth quarter, when Gronkowski blocked air as the Ravens rushed just four but the Patriots kept him on as a sixth blocker.

Gronkowski breakdown by quarter
1st: 7 routes/8 block
2nd: 12 routes/0 block
3rd: 8 routes/3 block
4th: 6 routes/5 block

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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