FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When the Denver Broncos tackle New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, they generally try to go low. They were successful with that approach in their 30-24 overtime win on Nov. 29.
"You gotta hit him low, man -- hit him in the knees," Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said Tuesday on ESPN's SportsCenter. "That's the best chance you have of hitting him. You gotta take his legs out or hold on and wait for everybody, wait for the gang to come on and gang-tackle him."
One example of how the Broncos did that Nov. 29 was on third-and-5 with 8:30 remaining in the second quarter. Broncos safety Darian Stewart delivered a low shot on Gronkowski immediately after he made the catch, stopping him on a 3-yard gain.
Then, of course, came the play with 2:53 remaining in the fourth quarter when Stewart and Gronkowski collided on an incomplete pass, as Stewart's shoulder pad hit Gronkowski across the knees, causing his leg to whip around. Gronkowski was carted off with a right knee sprain/bruise and missed the next week's game.
"Rob’s got to be aware of that," quarterback Tom Brady said Wednesday, when asked his level of concern of seeing defenders going low on Gronkowski. "Just like the big running backs -- when Steven Jackson or LeGarrette [Blount] are running through the hole -- you’ve got to tackle them. It’s kind of a daunting task, so they’re just going to try to get him down any way they can. ... Some guys have different techniques and styles to doing it."
Broncos safety T.J. Ward, for one, has a history with Gronkowski.
While playing for the Cleveland Browns, Ward took out Gronkowski's right knee on Dec. 8, 2013, tearing his ACL and MCL. Gronkowski missed the final three regular-season games and playoffs.
The following season, while playing for the Broncos, Ward had another low-hit collision with Gronkowski on Nov. 2, 2014. With less than four minutes remaining in the first quarter, Brady connected with Gronkowski for a 20-yard gain and Ward made contact with him at the knees again.