Remember the old quote about guarding Michael Jordan? “You can’t stop him, you can only hope to contain him.”
Substitute Rob Gronkowski for Michael Jordan and the quote works just the same.
Gronkowski played in his first game of the season and sure he still needs to improve his conditioning, as he was clearly gassed at the end of the game, and needs to get more comfortable with the arm brace as he too often tried to make one-handed catches, but if anyone doubted that he would contribute immediately they had to feel silly once the game began.
After the Jets scored on their opening drive the Patriots wasted no time responding as Brady led a 10 play, 80 yard touchdown drive that included two passes to Gronkowski.
The first pass went for 12 yards as Demario Davis and Dee Milliner had bracket coverage and the second went for 30 yards with Antonio Allen and Dawan Landry having bracket coverage.
42 yards on two plays on the Patriots first drive and it sure looked like the old Patriots offense that we’re used to seeing was back in full swing.
Patriot fans were no doubt drooling over the possibilities. They had to be thinking, 5-1 without Gronkowski now he’s back and looks great, who can stop us? Rex Ryan and his players stepped up and answered those fans saying, ‘we can and we will.’
Gronkowski finished with eight catches for 114 yards (he finished as the leading receiver on either team) and made a number of big plays to help the Patriots offense, many of them with Allen in coverage. Allen and the Jets certainly didn’t stop Gronkowski, eight catches, in 17 targets, for 114 yards would be a huge day for most tight ends, but they did a great job of containing him, especially in crucial moments.
Allen drew coverage on Gronkowski on 14 of his 17 targets, getting beat a number of times, including a timely Gornkowski drop and a defensive holding penalty on Allen, but Allen also managed to break up two passes and, of course, had the pick-six when he jumped Gronkowski’s route that got the Jets their first defensive touchdown of the year and, more importantly, got them back in the game.
“It was big. It got us back into the game.” Cromartie said, “Made us down by four at that point in time. It was a hell of a play, but we had great pressure front our front. If you watch the play, we got him (Brady) off his step a little bit, to the point where he couldn’t see his receiver and he threw it a little behind and double A (Allen) made a hell of a play for a touchdown.”
After the game Allen was asked if covering Gronkowski was his toughest assignment so far in his career and said, “Yeah, I could say that.”
Allen said he, “felt pretty good,” about how he covered Gronkowski, but added, “I really don’t like tight ends catching balls on me. So, I feel some type of way about that, but it’s alright.”
Allen was a seventh round draft pick last year and he was drafted specifically for this reason. In today’s NFL with these big tight ends causing such tremendous matchup advantages for the offense defenses are forced to adjust and find a way to cover the Gronkowski’s and Jimmy Graham’s of the world and that’s where the fast safeties and linebackers with long wingspans come in.
For one day at least the Jets had the answer to how can you contain Gronkowski and that answer was Antonio Allen.
“Great adjustment by DT (Dennis Thurman). He’s a guy that’s a long body. He has playmaking skills. I know he was a SAM linebacker at South Carolina. But he’s a baller. The guy’s a football player.” Ryan said, “We knew he’d be challenged. That kid (Gronkowski), when he’s covered he’s open.”