Patriots Film Review: Healthy Rob Gronkowski Allowing Offense To Flourish

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Rob GronkowskiRob Gronkowski has been accused of being injury prone, but the New England Patriots tight end has proven this season that he’s quick to recover from major surgery.

Gronkowski was removed from the injury report last week, and he looked close to 100 percent on Sunday in the Patriots’ 37-22 win over the Buffalo Bills. Gronkowski was tough to tackle and showed off his typical speed and agility while getting open with ease against the Bills.

The Patriots’ offense will only get better as Gronkowski gets more and more comfortable on his surgically repaired right knee. Gronk gave everyone a scare when he had to be helped off the field in the third quarter after getting the wind knocked out of him. To complicate matters, he broke his forearm brace on the previous play, so it looked like trainers were checking his arm on the sideline.

Gronkowski wasn’t the only Patriot who submitted an impressive performance on Sunday. Check out this week’s film review:

QUARTERBACK
Tom Brady had his most productive game of the season on Sunday night, and he was exceptional in the second half, completing 15 of 17 passes. Brady only threw 10 incompletions, and based on my charting, only four were inaccurate, three can be blamed on pressure allowed by the offensive line, two were great plays by the Bills’ defense and one was a receiver error.

Brady was solid throwing deep, as well, completing 4 of 7 passes over 15 yards and 3 of 4 over 20 yards. Brady placed perfect deep balls to Brian Tyms and Julian Edelman in the end zone. Tyms’ was caught for a touchdown and Edelman drew pass interference. Tight end Tim Wright scored on a 1-yard pass from Brady on the next play.

RUNNING BACKS
Patriots running backs ran the ball 22 times for just 37 yards and 1.68 yards per carry. Stevan Ridley was lost for the year in the third quarter, but even before the starting running back went down, the Patriots were having trouble moving the ball on the ground.

Shane Vereen wasn’t given much space to run by his offensive line, but he showed issues with decisiveness at times. The Patriots’ O-line was allowing penetration on almost every rushing attempt, however.

Brandon Bolden showed power on 5- and 8-yard carries after Ridley went down. Bolden has the ability to take any run to the house, and he breaks tackles using force, not agility like Vereen.

WIDE RECEIVERS
Julian Edelman quietly had a solid day at the office, catching nine passes for 91 yards. He started out slow, taking a risk by catching a punt with Bills safety Duke Williams in his face, being called for a false start and slipping on a target from Brady. Edelman more than made up for it, however, when he drew pass interference on Williams on a 29-yard pass from Brady into the end zone.

Williams’ incredulous look after being flagged is the best part of that play. What did he think was going to happen after he gave Edelman a two-hand shove?

Brandon LaFell’s best skills were on display against the Bills. He showcased his ability to pick up yards after the catch on 18- and 56-yard touchdown receptions. He also showcased his strength, beating press coverage and running through arm tackles.

Danny Amendola ran 12 routes and wasn’t targeted a single time by Brady as he struggled to get open. The only time when it looked like there was a window to throw to Amendola late in the second quarter, Brady was sacked before he could get rid of the ball.

Brian Tyms caught a long 43-yard pass and did an incredible job of wresting the ball away from Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore in the air.

TIGHT ENDS
Rob Gronkowski is supposed to be too big for a safety to cover and too fast for a linebacker, but he was too big and fast for Williams on a 33-yard catch over the Bills defensive back. Gronkowski ran a stop and go route, which showed that his speed and mobility are almost all the way back after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

Wright caught the 1-yard touchdown but only played 18 snaps, with 12 coming in the passing game and six as a run blocker.

Michael Hoomanawanui had to be bailed out by right tackle Sebastian Vollmer on a 17-yard completion by Brady to Edelman at the beginning of the fourth quarter. For the most part, Hooman played better than in weeks past.

OFFENSIVE LINE
The Patriots’ offensive line did a nice job protecting Brady for the second straight week, but it wasn’t as successful in the run game, failing to get a push against the Bills’ stout front seven. The Patriots’ running backs were left with little to no room to run.

Left tackle Nate Solder allowed a sack, two QB hits and a hurry to the Bills. Right guard Josh Kline struggled at times in pass protection, but no one on the offensive line was a total disaster, which is an improvement over the first four weeks of the season.

Center Ryan Wendell played very well for the second straight week and should continue to start for the rest of the season, either at center or guard. Wendell isn’t the biggest player, but he’s been the most fundamentally sound Patriots offensive lineman for two straight weeks.

DEFENSIVE LINE
Vince Wilfork, playing five-technique defensive end and defensive tackle, held his ground very well against the Bills’ rushing attack. Wilfork only generated one pressure, but he’s getting his most important job done by clogging rushing lanes.

Rookie Casey Walker continues to impress. He has a tendency to get pushed out of his gaps more often than Wilfork, but he’s a big, sturdy body who clogs up space.

Chris Jones struggles at times to two gap, but he’s also playing out of position as a five-technique defensive end. Jones has done a nice job pressuring the quarterback this year, which is his strength.

Chandler Jones’ best play was his strip sack late in the first half, when he ripped by left tackle Cordy Glenn and leaped at quarterback Kyle Orton. Jones also recovered the turnover.

Jones did a better job holding his edge against the run while playing outside linebacker and seven-technique defensive end.

Rob Ninkovich was the beneficiary of some solid coverage on his first sack. He threw Glenn to the ground on his second sack and flew past rookie tackle Seantrel Henderson on his third of the game.

LINEBACKERS
Jerod Mayo was having another strong game before hurting his knee midway through the second quarter. Mayo did his best Brandon Spikes impression early in the game, blowing up guard Cyril Richardson and fullback Frank Summers, which forced running back Anthony Dixon outside for a 1-yard gain.

Jamie Collins doesn’t look like he’s fully regained his speed from last year. That might be because he added some weight over the summer or because he’s still nursing a thigh injury. Collins still has managed to play well, though slightly inconsistent, this season.

Rookie Deontae Skinner is a slight liability on passing downs, since he doesn’t have the speed of Mayo or Collins, but he was solid filling his gaps in the running game and picked up a big sack when he rushed Orton on a delayed blitz.

CORNERBACKS
Darrelle Revis allowed just two catches on three targets for 27 yards to rookie wideout Sammy Watkins. On the first reception he allowed, it appeared that Revis thought Watkins was going to cut toward the middle of the field, not to the sideline. By the time Revis came back to Watkins, he decided to prevent the touchdown rather than taking a risk, failing, and allowing six points. Revis’ second reception allowed was for only 7 yards, when he was playing off man coverage by the end of the game.

For the most part, this is what Orton saw when he was looking toward Watkins:

RevisAlfonzo Dennard covered Robert Woods and had trouble with the Bills receiver’s more precise routes.

Kyle Arrington took on Marquise Goodwin, whom he blanked, and Chris Hogan. Arrington had a tougher time against Hogan, who’s a bit more physical at 6-foot-1, 220 pounds.

SAFETIES
Devin McCourty had a strong game, allowing just one catch for 6 yards.

Everyone on the Patriots had a difficult time covering Bills tight end Scott Chandler, including Patrick Chung, Tavon Wilson, Arrington, Chandler Jones and Skinner.

Chung was strong against the run, as usual, as highlighted by this play.

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