Rob Gronkowski’s third and final reception against the Kansas City Chiefs essentially won the game for the New England Patriots.
His second, while less dramatic, proved equally as important, and it came off a creatively nifty play call by offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick offered an interesting look inside the play — a 42-yard catch-and-run late in Sunday’s 43-40 victory over the Chiefs — during his weekly “Belichick Breakdown” segment with host Scott Zolak.
On first-and-10 from the Patriots’ 21-yard line with 3:50 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Chiefs positioned safety Jordan Lucas up on the line of scrimmage, inside edge rusher Breeland Speaks and on Gronkowski’s inside shoulder.
“Kind of what we call a point look,” Belichick explained, “where (Lucas) has the tight end man-for-man and the linebacker have the backs. This is something that we saw going all the way back to Buddy Ryan in the mid-’80s and so forth when teams were in a lot of two-back sets and this look became popular.”
At the snap, quarterback Tom Brady faked a toss right to running back Sony Michel. Gronkowski, who was lined up tight to the left, briefly went into a pass-blocking stance before veering around left tackle Trent Brown and heading downfield.
The 6-foot-8, 380-pound Brown, in turn, blocked Lucas — who was assigned to cover Gronkowski — diverting the much smaller defensive back out of the play and leaving the superstar tight end wide open in the middle of the field.
“What we’re doing on this play,” Belichick continued, “is Rob sets quickly like it’s a pass, and then Trent blocks the player that’s over (Gronkowski) and kind of distracts him here, and then Rob slips through. It’s really well executed.”
Indeed. After faking the toss — which pulled the linebackers away from the middle of the field — Brady spun and delivered a short pass to Gronkowski, who leveled safety Ron Parker with a stiff arm before finally being dragged down the Kansas City 27. The big gain set up a 50-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski that gave New England a seven-point lead.
Belichick, ever the football historian, likened the play to one run by the Vinny Testaverde-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a game against the Detroit Lions close to 30 years ago.
“(It’s) a situation that hasn’t come up in a while, but we saw the look,” the coach said. “Josh McDaniels and the offensive staff did a real nice job of designing the play. Josh had good timing on it, well executed.”
On the next Patriots drive, after Chiefs wideout Tyreek Hill tied the game with a 75-yard touchdown catch, Gronkowski burned safety Josh Shaw to haul in a 39-yard deep ball from Brady. Gostkowski kicked a 28-yard, game-winning field goal two plays later.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images