Tuesday, 20 October 2015


Fans see Rob Gronkowski catch passes, bulldoze would-be tacklers, score touchdowns and dent the earth with his otherworldly spikes.
Bill Belichick sees much more.
He sees an All-Pro tight end who is also a force on special teams. That was certainly evident on Sunday night when Gronkowski fielded an onside kick from Pat MCAFEE that saved the game in the final 70 seconds.
“The onside kick, Rob made a good play on that,” Belichick said Monday after watching the film. “The guys in front of him made a real good play. They knocked off the blockers and Jonathan Freeny actually had a block where he kind of pushed his guy into [Donte] Moncrief and kind of got a two-on-one and that made it clean for Rob to handle the ball. The ball was spiked high. It was a good kick. I’€™m not sure if he hadn’€™t have handled it, like if there had been somebody in his way where he couldn’€™t have fielded the ball, it looked short of 10 yards. I think it would have eventually gone 10 but I don’€™t know if it would’€™ve gone 10 when it hit the ground. But I thought he made a good play.
“We tell him, if you can handle the ball cleanly to get it and he did. So, it was a good play by him, but it was well executed by the entire hands team.”
Gronkowski showed sincere frustration that he couldn’t tip-toe on the sidelines and stay in bounds. Had he been able to, he was home free to run down the left sideline for a touchdown. What’s interesting about that is that Belichick was actually happy he did, since all the Patriots had to do was take two knees to run out the clock.
Does Belichick coach players to score if they have a chance on an onside kick? Well, as Belichick said Monday, it depends. Sunday, the Patriots led 34-27, with just over a minute left and the Colts having no timeouts left.
“It depends on the situation in the game,” Belichick said. In that particular situation with the Colts out of timeouts and the amount of time that was left in the game, all we had to do was kneel on the ball, so you don’€™t want to take any needless opportunities or chances in trying to advance the ball. Ball possession really wins the game in that situation. But again I think that play was a little bit unusual because Rob was moving forward. He kind of made the play on the run so it might have been a little more awkward for him to go down than to just catch it and keep moving forward.
“The most important thing in that play is obviously just ball security, is securing possession of that ball. A lot of times it’€™s going to the ground and securing it, but on that particular one it was probably actually easier for him to do it the way he did, and he handled it very cleanly. Those are the plays we talk about a lot. They don’€™t come up all that frequently for any individual team. Maybe if you watched all the games over the weekend, you’€™d probably see a couple of them every weekend, but for your individual team, when that play comes up, it’€™s kind of a game-winning play.
“It’€™s kind of like the Hail Mary pass that goes into the end zone, if you defend it you win and if you don’€™t you lose. The onside kick is maybe not quite that dramatic, but it’€™s pretty close so if you can make that play then you can run out the clock and end the game and if you can’€™t make it they have that chance to score and you’€™ve got to stop them on defense. The execution of that play is critical when it comes up. It just doesn’€™t happen all that often. But when it does, everything you’€™ve done in the previous 59 minutes all hinges on the execution of that one play.”
Something else Gronkowski does remarkably well but doesn’t always get the glory for is run blocking and support blocking in extra protection packages. In the first series, Gronkowski was lined up next to Marcus Cannon on the left side to help with some pass protection. After Cannon went out with a toe injury, he flipped over and helped right tackle Cameron Fleming with run blocking.
“I thought Rob did a solid job for us [Sunday] night both in the running game and in the passing game,” Belichick said. “We had some good run blocking. We ran the ball productively at times. We didn’€™t have any negative plays. Some plays didn’€™t gain a lot of yardage, but we didn’€™t have plays that went backwards where we lost yardage and ended up in longer yardage situations on second and third down, so that was good. I thought he gave us a solid effort all the way through.”

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