Patriots

Don’t underestimate Rob Gronkowski’s impact as a blocker

Rob Gronkowski celebrates with Dion Lewis in the endzone. Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

COMMENTARY

On a day in which Rob Gronkowski failed to reach the end zone, the New England Patriots offense scored 51 points.

I went back and checked, and while I could not confirm whether or not hell froze over, I did confirm that the sun indeed came up the next day and there were no flying pigs to be found.

But just because Gronkowski was held without a touchdown for the first time since November 30, 2014, doesn’t mean Gronkowski failed to make an impact.

And sure enough, the No. 87 jersey was in the frame for many of the Patriots’ biggest runs on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

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The Patriots ran the ball 32 times, and nine of those carries gained five yards or more. Four of those carries took place in the first half, and Gronkowski was a key blocker for each of them.

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It all started with Lewis’s 8-yard touchdown run with 11:59 to go in the first quarter. The Patriots came out with three wide receivers and Gronkowski lined up with his hand in the ground at tight end. Gronkowski started by getting a chip on the defensive end before moving to the second level to block the linebacker.

Lewis ran the wrong direction initially, and ran into Gronkowski’s back, but Lewis bounced back to the other side to find the open lane to the end zone.

None of that would have happened without Gronkowski to execute two key blocks.

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Gronkowski was next seen with 5:00 to go in the first quarter on a trap run, as a lead-blocker on a tandem block of the defensive tackle. Thanks to Gronkowski blocking down, the defensive lineman was unable to recover and get back to his gap. That block, along with guard Josh Kline blocking a linebacker, were the key blocks that sprung Lewis free.

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Again, none of it would have taken place if Gronkowski hadn’t executed his block.

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With 1:41 remaining in the first half, Gronkowski lined up in a two-point stance at tight end with Tom Brady in the shotgun. Lewis took the handoff and ran for the gap between the right tackle and tight end.

Left guard Shaq Mason pulled to the right, headed for the same gap as a lead blocker, but without Gronkowski keeping the edge defender at bay, this run play could have been stopped for a loss.

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Gronkowski had another impressive block on LeGarrette Blount’s 22-yard carry with 6:33 remaining in the first half.

In the previous example, Gronkowski helped on a tandem-block of a defensive tackle. This time, he did it all by himself. He went in motion before the snap to get in better position to execute the block, and by the time Blount got the ball, the entire left side of the line had been sealed off.

Without Gronkowski there to block the defensive tackle in the earhole, Blount might have been stopped at the line of scrimmage. Instead, he got rolling for 22 yards before he was taken down.

Even without the touchdown, Gronkowski hauled in four passes for 103 yards. But his four blocks were just as important to the Patriots’ success on Sunday.

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