Rob Gronkowski confirmed Sunday night that he nixed an offseason trade to the Detroit Lions because he only wanted to play for the New England Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady.
Brady may owe his tight end a thank you for that.
Gronkowski, who caught a team-high four passes for 51 yards in Sunday night’s 26-10 loss to the Lions, appears to be the only legitimate receiving threat in a depleted offense. As such, opposing defenses are loading up to stop him — and Brady has noticed.
“Yeah, it’s really been three weeks in a row where he’s gotten the majority of the coverage focused on him,” Brady said Monday morning on WEEI’s “Kirk & Callahan” radio show. “If I was a defensive coach, I’d be focusing my attention on him, too. So, it just comes down to us getting them out of that by getting the ball in other parts of the field, different areas, and we just have failed to do that.”
It doesn’t take much reading between the lines to understand Brady’s message: He needs more from his other receivers. Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson combined for just four catches Sunday night, while running back Sony Michel had a pair of drops out of the backfield.
“If Gronk’s going to get coverage, it gives other players opportunities,” Brady said. “At certain times we’ve done a good job with that, and then (Sunday) night I just didn’t think we did a good job with it at all.”
Brady completed just 14 passes Sunday night, his lowest total since Week 17 of the 2015 season. Part of the reason for his struggles: No one could get open. Without having to worry about Julian Edelman in the slot or Josh Gordon as a potential deep threat, the Lions blanketed Gronkowski with double coverage all night, while New England’s other pass-catchers couldn’t get separation from Detroit’s defensive backs.
That forced Brady into “desperation mode” by throwing low-percentage passes deep downfield. None connected, and one long ball to Phillip Dorsett resulted in an easy Darius Slay interception.
“We’ve got to play with more confidence in each other or else it goes from bad to worse,” Brady added. “And you see that — you start getting desperate in those situations like we did in the fourth quarter and balls start going places they shouldn’t go based on the desperation. And that’s when bad things just mount on top of one another.”
Help should be on the way: Edelman will return from his suspension following next week’s game against the Miami Dolphins, where Gordon is expected to make his debut. But the Patriots’ passing game looks very shaky at the moment — and would be a complete mess without Gronkowski.
As such, Brady is grateful Gronk doesn’t want to play for any other QB but him.
“I think that speaks to our relationship,” Brady added. “I feel as strongly about him as he does about me. I love the guy. He’s had a big impact on my career, personally and professionally, and I’m very lucky to play with him.”
Thumbnail photo via Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports Images