SAN DIEGO – Like the mutating virus that became a pandemic in the recently-released Steven Soderbergh film “Contagion,” New England’s offense has morphed into a different sort of matchup problem for defenses.
The Patriots drafted two tight ends in 2010, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Each had more than 40 receptions and combined for 16 touchdowns as rookies. The duo looked even scarier Monday night in a 38-24 win against the Dolphins, combining for 13 catches, 189 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Hernandez acts as a receiver at times, lining up in the slot or the backfield. Gronkowski, five inches taller and 20 pounds heavier, is a more seasoned blocker.
“They’re outstanding,” Head Coach Norv Turner said. “You can see how much they’ve developed. They complement each other extremely well and (the Patriots) use them awfully well.”
The versatility of New England’s pair of tight ends creates matchup problems, particularly when the Patriots resort to a no-huddle offense that prevents defenses from substituting. That’s when Gronkowski and Hernandez can exploit personnel.
“They don’t substitute to do it so you can’t substitute. Once you get your guys on the field you’ve got to play and you’ve got to be able to handle the different looks,” Turner said. “They can be in a power run set with those guys and with the abilities they have they can spread you out and be in a wide-open pass set. That’s why they’re going no-huddle. Their personnel allows them to do it.”
Said New England Head Coach Bill Belichick: “The skill set of both these players really allows us to be flexible. Maneuvering these guys around, putting them in different places, that’s what creates problems for (defenses).”
San Diego’s defense wants to disrupt the flow that led to a franchise-best 622 yards of offense for New England on Monday. To do that, they’ll need to enter the game well-prepared and be efficient getting plays called.
“If you look at the Miami game, the first initial thing is that we have to get lined up,”
STILL A CHANCE:
“We’re going to give him a chance,” Turner said. “We’ll see how he progresses, but it’s way too early to try to put a time on it.”
DD PROGRAM: The Chargers and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) are partnering this year to promote a safer game-day experience with a designated driver program.
San Diego is one of seven NFL teams partnered with MADD, which is enhancing the franchises’ existing designated driver program with a pregame presence in and around Qualcomm Stadium during game days, encouraging fans to sign up as designated drivers. In addition to discouraging underage drinking, MAD and the NFL are encouraging adults who drink to utilize designated drivers.