Raj Mehta/USA Today Sports

Second Look: Rob Gronkowski hasn’t been double-covered as much as you think

Ryan Hannable
September 25, 2018 - 10:02 pm

The Patriots offense hasn’t looked anything like what we’re used to seeing the last few weeks, especially the passing game.

Brady finished with just 133 yards in Sunday’s loss to Detroit, which were the fewest passing yards he’s had in a game where played the entire thing since 2013.

As for the reason for the struggles the last few weeks, many have pointed to Rob Gronkowski being taken away by the opposing defense and the Patriots wide receivers haven’t been able to step up. Gronkowski has six catches for 66 yards the last two weeks.

Related: Watch every Patriots game season this season with fuboTV -- click to start free trial now

“It’s really been three weeks in a row where he’s gotten the majority of the coverage focused on him," Tom Brady said Monday on Kirk & Callahan. "If I was a defensive coach I would be focusing my attention on him too. It just comes down to us getting out of that by getting the ball in other parts of the field, to different areas. We just haven’t been able to do that, certainly last night. The two games before — the first week he makes some plays in double coverage and last week he certainly got double coverage.” 

While it is true the Patriots wide receivers have been underwhelming, a further look at the tape shows opponents haven’t taken Gronkowski out of games as much as maybe we first thought.

Over the last two games, Gronkowski has run 50 routes and has only been double-covered 26 percent (13-of-50) of the time — six against the Jaguars in Week 2 and seven against the Lions in Week 3. Most of these instances have occurred in the red zone.

Both defenses certainly have paid attention to him more than any other Patriots pass-catcher, but the double teams just haven't been as prevalent as the narrative has said.

"Got to figure out how to get open no matter what coverage it is, and it's going to take a little. But I feel like I've got to adjust and up my game up,” Gronkowski said after Sunday’s game.

Brady just needs to throw him the ball more. He's the Patriots' best pass-catcher right now and if he's not being double-covered, he should be the first read almost every play.

When the Patriots went three-and-out on the first three drives of the game, Gronkowski wasn’t targeted once. It wasn’t a coincidence Gronkowski was targeted twice on the next drive and the offense moved the ball for the first time all game.

So while the Patriots receivers need to step up, Gronkowski also needs to be targeted more since he really isn’t being totally eliminated by defenses.

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