We’ve seen all the numbers of how the Patriots are 69% in red zone efficiency with Gronkowski and just 41% without him, but does that really tell the whole story of this offense? Afterall, you have to get frist downs to get touchdowns in the NFL.
For the first two weeks of Gronkowski’s return, I seem to remember an offense that still struggled and even lost against the Jets in overtime. People seem to forget that just three games after Gronkowski returned, so did Vereen and it’s driving me crazy. Rant on:
The Patriots, in Rob Gronkowski’s first game back, were just 1-12 on third down and Brady went 22/46 for zero touchdowns and one interception. Sure Gronkowski led the way in yards caught, but it wasn’t some mind blowing offensive showing as soon as Gronkowski came back.
The next game was against Miami, where the Patriots went a whopping 2-10 on third downs and had just six passing first downs the entire game. Gronkowski in that game caught just two passes for 27 yards and zero touchdowns again. Brady was 13/22 for just 116 yards with one touchdown and one interception as the rookie Dobson led the way with 60 yards receiving and a touchdown.
The next was the game against the horrendous Pittsburgh Steelers when everyone and their mother got a touchdown. I’m going to exclude that one because they didn’t even need any of their starting offense to win that game.
The red zone efficiency was 5-6 in the first two games upon Gronkowski’s return, which is impressive. A lot of it has to do with how much attention got put on Gronkowski, as he caught zero touchdowns, and that’s what the Patriots will miss the most. Gronkowski gets his fair amount of touchdowns, but it’s the matchups he creates for others that makes the Patriots so efficient in the red zone.
Since Vereen has come back, you have seen Brady throw for 296, 344, 371 and 418 yards in those four games. Prior to Vereen and excluding the Steelers game, Brady hadn’t thrown for more than 316 yards in any game and only did that once against the Falcons.
Tom Brady averaged just 36 attempts per game in the eight games without Vereen and that’s including the Steelers game. With Vereen in there, Brady has attempted an average of 47 attempts per game in the five games this season. Point being, Brady gets better when he has that security blanket of a check down running back. Brady’s binky has been Vereen all the long and Vereen gets no credit.
Gronkowski has 39 receptions on 67 targets (58%) this season in the seven games he’s played, and Vereen has 40 on 55 targets (73%) in just five games. Gronkowski has 31 total first downs and Vereen has 30 with both receiving and running and that’s with playing two less games.
The Patriots were 3-4 without Gronkowski in the Browns game and Vereen had a touchdown carry at the end of the third quarter. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not comparing the two players because they are way different and I’m not saying Gronkowski doesn’t make this team way better, but what I am saying is they are both great and both are responsible for the offensive spike in production in the recent weeks, not just Gronkowski like the national media has presented it.