Rob Gronkowski Responsible for Much of BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ Success and 19 Other Patriots Thoughts


Rob Gronkowski Responsible for Much of BenJarvus Green-Ellis' Success and 19 Other Patriots ThoughtsFOXBORO, Mass. — The Patriots put some separation between themselves and the Jets on Sunday, but they've got another test this weekend against the Cowboys, who are coming off a bye week and have had more than enough time to prepare for New England.

Let's steam through some leftovers from the last week before shifting gears to the Patriots' upcoming challenge with the Cowboys in the Two-Minute Drill.

1. Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis closed out the Jets with 10 carries for 59 yards during the Patriots' final drive of the game, but tight end Rob Gronkowski deserves a load of credit, too. Green-Ellis ran to Gronkowski's side of the line during his first eight carries on that drive, and he accumulated 57 yards and two first downs on those runs. Of course, the two times they ran away from Gronkowski, the drive stalled.

2. It wasn't just to one side, either. During those eight runs, Gronkowski was lined up four times to the left and four times to the right. It's almost automatic at this point, especially in the last two weeks, that the Patriots will run to Gronkowski's side of the line. I will be looking to see how defenses adjust to this.

3. Initially, I criticized Tom Brady in Sunday's live blog for one of his pre-snap reads on a failed third down midway through the third quarter against the Jets, though I reserved complete judgment until I looked at the tape. Now that I've done that, I know Brady made the right call. It happened on third-and-9 from the New England 31-yard line with 7:23 on the clock.

4. While watching the game live, I originally thought the Jets sent the house and left man coverage on the Patriots' three receivers, including tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was in the left slot and ran an out pattern, but Brady missed him. I put that on Brady for not sending Hernandez on a seam or slant route to take advantage of the man coverage.

5. However, I was wrong because the Jets were zone blitzing. Linebacker Aaron Maybin showed blitz for a moment after the snap before dropping back into his zone. If Hernandez went inside, Maybin would have broken up the pass or intercepted it. Therefore, Brady was dead on with his read, but the Jets executed better.

6. Neither Hernandez (knee) nor defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth (back) worked out on the field with a member of the medical staff prior to the announcement of the inactive list, which leads me to believe neither was a game-time decision. Haynesworth then went as far as to say he knew all week he'd be playing. Regardless, that's a great sign for their health situations.

7. I didn't really understand the Patriots' tactic during Shonn Greene's three-yard touchdown run. Defensive tackles Vince Wilfork and Kyle Love were split wide, as both lined up over the outside shoulder of the two guards, leaving tons of space in the middle in front of center Nick Mangold, who was singled up on linebacker Brandon Spikes. The Jets won all three of those individual battles, and linebacker Gary Guyton couldn't get to the ball in time to stop Greene, who scored easily.

8. The defensive technique was by design, and it gave the Patriots numbers on the edge of the line, which might have looked good because quarterback Mark Sanchez was in the shotgun. But the Patriots essentially invited a run up the middle, and the Jets capitalized on it.

9. On the final play of the first quarter, Spikes was at the bottom of the pile and ripped off fullback John Conner's cleat and flung it into the offensive backfield. I laughed.

10. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie openly begged Brady to throw in his direction last week, but Cromartie should have spent that time in the film room. Wide receiver Deion Branch torched Cromartie by running one of the Patriots' most common end-zone routes, slanting toward the post before reversing and running an out on the baseline. It's like Cromartie had no idea that Branch was ready for a double move.

11. It's probably not a good sign that running back Shane Vereen didn't get any action with Danny Woodhead out of the lineup. Vereen fell behind in training camp with a hamstring injury and hasn't touched the ball a single time in the regular season. Then again, Bill Belichick might have opted against throwing Vereen right into the middle of a Patriots-Jets game for his first real offensive action.

12. Safety Patrick Chung wasn't wearing a cast Monday, so his thumb appears to have healed well. Chung had a cast over his thumb in Sunday's game, and he might still wear something to protect it during practice and this week's game. But it's a good sign that he's able to walk around without one.

13. I've written about quarterback Brian Hoyer's chances to start for someone next year in this space before, but I asked him about it the other day, too. Check out what he thinks about being a big name on the market, as well as a number of other variables that could play into the Patriots' potential to trade him in the offseason.

14. I thought it was very surprising to see running back Stevan Ridley returning kicks Sunday in Julian Edelman's absence. Whether it was the hamstring or an issue of skill, Price dropped down the depth chart, and that's a tough blow for a guy who has been dying to get onto the field in any way possible.

15. You might hear some chatter about how the Patriots were "close" to picking wide receiver Dez Bryant in the 2010 draft, but I strongly disagree with that notion. The Patriots could have taken Bryant at Nos. 22 or 24, but they traded out of each spot. I'm sure they really liked Bryant, and they might have even been happy to take him if the draft unfolded differently. I just disagree with the logic that they were "close" to drafting him.

16. Speaking of which — and not that this is anything new, but it's always fun to jog the memory — but the Patriots traded down twice in the first round in 2010 and built up assets to select cornerback Devin McCourty, wide receiver Taylor Price and Hernandez. That's quite the haul.

17. Jermaine Cunningham hasn't exactly made an impact yet this season, and Belichick said Tuesday that he really fell behind due to an injury in training camp. Belichick also said Cunningham is "definitely on the upswing." I thought Cunningham would have a good year before the Patriots switched to more of a 4-3 base, so I wonder how that has affected him, too. Of course, Cunningham played in the 4-3 at Florida, but it's got to be tough to switch up your responsibilities so much in your first two years as a pro.

18. What's the biggest challenge that Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware presents?

"Blocking him," Belichick responded.

I wonder how much the Patriots will motion Gronkowski to Ware's side of the field if he moves around the defense.

19. Ware ended a game against the Redskins in Week 3 by spinning through two offensive linemen and forcing quarterback Rex Grossman out of the pocket. Anthony Spencer then chased him down from behind and forced Grossman to fumble. If Ware didn't beat the double team with one move, Spencer wouldn't have caused the turnover. That's the thing with Ware. He doesn't even have to get to the ball to make his entire defense better. He's truly one of the five best defensive players in the NFL right now.

20. A few weeks ago, the Dolphins decided they'd honor the 2009 national champion Florida Gators football team during their Week 7 game against the Broncos. Now that Tim Tebow has been named the starting quarterback for that one, it's going to be an even bigger draw in Miami. But how out of touch are the Dolphins with this one? They're honoring the starting quarterback of the visiting team in a stadium that is shared by the University of Miami, which is one of Florida's great rivals. I know they're desperate to sell tickets, but you shouldn't have to sell your soul in the process.

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