Double coverage of Gonzalez over the top?

October, 17, 2013
10/17/13
7:57
PM ET
Tight end Tony Gonzalez has been double-teamed most of the season, but the Atlanta Falcons say at least one of those coverage schemes has been over the top.

Specifically, the New England Patriots in Week 4 had a strategy in which they jammed Gonzalez with two defenders, much like what is done to stop a gunner on special teams. The Patriots used linebackers Jerod Mayo and Jamie Collins against Gonzalez on the Falcons’ final drive, when Matt Ryan’s final pass fell incomplete in a 30-23 loss.

[+] EnlargeTony Gonzalez
Scott Cunningham/Getty ImagesTony Gonzalez has received some physical coverage that the Falcons believe should be penalized.
On third-and-10 from the Patriots’ 13-yard line, Mayo and Collins appeared to hold Gonzalez well beyond 5 yards. No penalty was called.

Falcons coach Mike Smith pointed out how such play resulted in penalties a week later against the New York Jets. Gonzalez was blanketed with the same coverage against the Jets on fourth-and-3 from the Jets’ 7.

But the officials actually whistled Jets linebacker DeMario Davis for holding Falcons running back Jacquizz Rodgers, although it appeared both David Harris and Jaiquawn Jarrett held Gonzalez. Harris was whistled for defensive holding on Gonzalez in the second quarter of that game, when he and Jarrett tried to use the same tactic against the tight end.

Gonzalez was asked Thursday about being basically mauled in such manner, call or no call.

"I think it’s illegal," he said. "I do know they called it right when I got to 5 yards. So if I can get to 5 yards, then they’re going to call it, it seems like, which is good news for me. Because that’s no fun going out there and getting double-teamed like that."

Gonzalez chuckled when asked if he could practice going against such a defense.

"There’s nothing you can do about that," he said. "Those guys, there’s one on each side of you. There’s not too much you can do about that. All I can do is try to get to 5 yards. I think I can do that."

Smith, obviously annoyed with the no-calls against the Patriots, explained his interpretation of the rules.

"Again, you can chuck in the first 5 yards, but you can only chuck one time," Smith said. "You can’t chuck twice in the first 5 yards. And you can’t hold. You can’t hold anytime.

"I think that there was definitely a different way that both the games were officiated in the Jets game and the previous game. As I mentioned, we’re all working to make the game as clean as it can be: that’s coaches, players, the league office, everybody."

Smith was asked if he had brought his concerns to the league.

"I’m not going to comment on anything," the coach said. "I’m just trying to clarify the rule there. The way I understand it, it’s going to be officiated in how it was officiated differently in the New York Jets game."

We’ll see how closely the officials pay attention to the defense on Gonzalez moving forward. The 1-4 Falcons host the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

Vaughn McClure

ESPN Atlanta Falcons reporter

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