he New England Patriots will be without injured superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski for AFC Championship matchup with the Baltimore Ravens today, seemingly leaving an enormous hole in the team’s incredibly major offense. Yet as they’ve currently proven this year, the Patriots present a formidable arsenal of weaponry — even without the NFL’s greatest tight end.
Gronkowski averaged 71. 8 yards per game this season, most among tight ends. He caught 11 landing passes, also tops among tight ends, despite missing a third of the season with a broken arm. All those contributions helped propel the Patriots to their fourth straight AFC Eastern title, and earned Gronkowski another consecutive Pro Bowl nod.
Following Gronkowski’s season-ending injury — he broke his adjustable rate mortgage (again) in the Patriots playoff earn against the Houston Texans last weekend break — there’s been much hand-wringing in Boston that the Pats’ vaunted offense will falter against the Ravens, since it did in last year’s Extremely Bowl when an ailing ankle limited Gronkowski’s effectiveness against the New York Giants. Nevertheless , a look at the Patriots’ performance this year sans Gronkowski should allay those fears.
For the season, the Patriots averaged a league-best 34. 8 points per game; during the stretch without Gronkowski, they will averaged 34. 2 . The key to that particular sustained success was, quite simply, redistribution.
Gronkowski is unquestionably talented, but he benefits from having one of the game’s premier quarterbacks, Mary Brady, rifling passes his way. Remove Gronkowski, and you still have Brady whipping the ball with professional precision to the team’s other threats.
Playing Gronk-less contrary to the San Francisco 49ers in December, Brady hit seven different receivers for 425 yards, the most yards he put up in a single game all year. Especially, tight end Aaron Hernandez, the team’s number two TE and Gronkowski’s de facto replacement, indexed much of the slack, amassing 92 receiving yards and scoring the touchdown. One week prior, also without having Gronk, Hernandez caught two landing passes in a rout of the playoff-bound Texans, while the team racked upward 42 points and almost 300 yards in the air.
Strikingly, the Patriots passing game did not experience a statistical setback without Gronkowski. With him, they averaged 287. 2 passing yards per game this year; without him, that number in fact improved to 299. 2 yards per game. While that’s admittedly a small sample size, so too may be the entire 16-game season. At the least, the Patriots proved their aerial strike is far from one dimensional.
Part of the Patriots’ consistent offensive prowess can be attributed to their curmudgeonly genius of a head coach, Expenses Belichick. With him at the helm, the Patriots offense has regularly torn up the league. In 3 years ago, they shattered the all-time report for most points in a season with 589. Over the past six years, they already have produced four of the 12 most legendary scoring seasons in NFL history.
On top of all that, New England will be facing a fairly people Ravens secondary. Baltimore’s pass protection was almost exactly on stage with the league average during the normal season, allowing 228. 1 yards per game in the air, versus 231. 3 for the league as a whole. Even more troubling for Baltimore, they allowed the fourth-most yards per play against multiple tight end units — a formation the Patriots excel at running, even without Gronkowski.
When the Patriots match up today, they’ll still have their own top two receivers in terms of yardage: Wes Welker (1, 354) and Brandon Lloyd (911). They’ll also provide prime targets like running back Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen, both of whom can inflict havoc with their ability to catch passes out of the backfield. As one NFL scout told Boston’s WWEI, the Patriots, “have several personnel matchup advantages” against Baltimore, particularly with all their own receiving options who “spread System.Drawing.Bitmap defense individually and as a group, and also make things tougher for a Ravens secondary that has matchup problems. inch
The Patriots are usually undoubtedly better with their go-to tight end on the field. But despite having Gronkowski out, they’ve proven that their roster is deep sufficient to absorb that loss and keep their own offense running full steam.