Patriots Unleash Gronk and Bennett vs Browns

Patriots fans finally got to see the teams offense with almost all its weapons healthy and back from suspension vs the Browns on Sunday.

We are still waiting on Dion Lewis, but Tom Brady has returned and Rob Gronkowski is Gronk again.

Josh McDaniels was able to unleash all those two tight end sets he has been saving since the Patriots acquired Martellus Bennett in March.

With Gronk “feeling like himself” again, we saw a glimpse into the possibilities of what this offense can do with these two tight ends.

The two were on the field together for 39 plays on Sunday, as the Patriots shifted to a lot more one running back, two tight end sets than the four weeks prior.

Let’s take a look at how the Patriots utilized Gronkowski and Bennett.

It was assumed that teams would struggle to defend the Patriots in the red zone this season, especially now with Bennett. On Sunday, that was maybe the biggest takeaway from all the action involving both Gronk and Marty B. On this play, the Browns decide to double Gronk at the top of the screen who’s lined up out wide. This leaves Bennett isolated on a linebacker underneath. Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey does a decent job in coverage, but Bennett is too quick and Brady delivers an accurate pass. If teams are going to double Gronk in the red zone, its hard not to, it’s going to leave Bennett and company in favorable matchups.

 

Gronk and Bennett were on the field together for 39 plays on Sunday, and 16 of those plays were runs. One advantage that sets this duo apart is that both are plus blockers at the position, and in Gronk’s case, arguable the best blocking tight end in football. The Patriots showed a few different looks with Gronk and Bennett in the run game, but most effective was when they were on the same side of the line. Here, D.J. Foster follows the hole between Gronk and Nate Solder. while Bennett occupies the outside linebacker. Gronk gets downfield and eventually takes on two Browns in the hole. Foster doesn’t get into the end zone, but you can see how these two can be factors on the ground.

Here’s the backbreaker for Cleveland. The third Martellus Bennett touchdown of the day that made the score 30-7 Pats. McDaniels and the Patriots love to run this exaggerated play-actions where all eleven guys sell run until the last second. On this play, not only did the Patriots do that, but they also quick snapped the Browns out of position as well. When you combine the speed and size of Gronk and Bennett, the quick snap, and the play action; Cleveland had very little chance of stopping this play. They left both #87 and #88 wide open. When the Patriots put those two on the same side of the field and run downfield routes its going to be very tough to stop.

Another example of how these two working in tandem on the same side of the field is going to wreak havoc. The Browns are in cover-1 with one safety deep.  Gronk runs the seam while Bennett breaks off into the flat. Browns defensive back Jordan Poyer (bottom of screen) has to take Bennett in the flat. This leaves Gronk one-on-one with a linebacker (Kirksey). The safety in the middle of the field, Derrick Kindred, has no chance of getting to Gronkowski before the pass gets there. Another big play for the Pats.

Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett finished with 11 catches, 176 yards, and three touchdowns combined on Sunday.

The Browns, now 0-5, are obviously not one of the leagues elite teams.

However, tougher defenses are on the horizon with Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Seattle as the Patriots next four opponents.

Three of those teams have defenses ranked in the top ten in scoring defense, and the Bengals are around the league average at 16th.

Belichick and McDaniels will need everything they can get from their two Pro Bowl tight ends in the weeks to come.