Monday, January 2, 2012

Gronkowski's Record Run Likely To Draw Attention In Post Season

Rob Gronkowski set another record yesterday in Foxboro, this time for yardage by a tight end. Gronk finished the year with 1327 yards receiving, with bested the old mark of 1,290 by the great Kellen Winslow, set in 1980. Gronk also finished 17 yards ahead of Jimmy Graham, New Orleans answer to Gronk at tight end. Graham end his 2011 campaign with 1,310 yards, also beating Winslow's record. 
Gronkowski's amazing 2011 season almost assuredly means teams will be double teaming him in the post season. Here's the rub: you can't double everyone. If teams opt to go single man coverage, Gronk will have a huge post season. If teams elect to double Gronk AND Wes Welker, that will leave Tom Brady going four and five wide, hitting Aaron Hernandez, Dieon Branch, or checking down to the open back out of the backfield. If teams elect to cover Gronk with a 'take away' corner, Welker ends up in a mismatch with the oppositions #2 CB. Even if Gronk draws double coverage in nickel coverage, with Welker getting the focus from a #1 CB, Brady then has a mismatch with whomever is covering Hernandez. 

The trick is going to be which team can get the most pressure on Brady. Baltimore, Cincinnati and Houston are ranked 1-2-3 in the AFC in sacks. The Steelers have given up the fewest yards passing in the conference, at 2,751. New England gave up nearly twice as much yardage in the air, clocking in with 4703 yards. The difference is going to be which team can go offensively with New England toe to toe, while coming up with one or two defensive stops. 

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