Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports

Second Look: How Rob Gronkowski got so open on big fourth quarter plays

Ryan Hannable
October 15, 2018 - 9:14 pm

Prior to late in the fourth quarter against the Chiefs Sunday night, Rob Gronkowski wasn’t much of a factor at all in the passing game.

The Patriots tight end had more of a role in the blocking game, but was also taken away by the Kansas City defense when he did run routes, as going into the second-to-last possession he had just one catch for 16 yards.

Gronkowski then made two of the biggest catches of the game — the first a 42-yard grab to set up Stephen Gostkowski’s 50-yard field goal to make it a seven-point game, and then a 39-yard reception to get the Patriots inside the 10-yard line, which led to Gostkowski’s game-winning field goal as time expired.

So, how was Gronkowski able to get so wide open on these plays?

The 42-yard gain was a unique play design by offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

On the drive prior, a third-and-1 which led to a long completion to Chris Hogan, Gronkowski was essentially tackled at the line of scrimmage by two Chiefs defenders taking him out of the play. So, on the next drive, offensive tackle Trent Brown essentially blocked the defender lined up across from Gronkowski and that allowed him to get into space easily so he could scamper 42 yards up the left sideline.

Below are screenshots of the two plays, which show exactly what happened.

Then on the final drive, Gronkowski got 1-on-1 coverage against defensive back Josh Shaw and Tom Brady took full advantage, finding him for a 39-yard gain up the right side. Many wondered why Kansas City wouldn’t double him like it did basically all game, but it was actually a slight tweak in where Gronkowski lined up on the line of scrimmage that set it up.

“I think if Rob would have been in tight the end would have jammed him so it would have looked like double coverage,” Bill Belichick explained on Ordway, Merloni & Fauria Monday. “By extending him we would have either forced the double coverage out, which would have created space for somebody else, or changed the pass rush, or they might not go out with him, which they didn’t, and then create a 1-on-1 situation. Tom saw it. Tom doesn’t miss much anyway. He wasn’t going to miss that one.”

So, while Gronkowski wasn’t a factor in the passing game until the end of the game, great players make big plays when their teams need them most.

Related: Rob Gronkowski reacts to fan throwing beer on Tyreek Hill

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