The Broncos take the first memorable news item of the AFC Championship Week with LB Brandon Marshall complaining about Rob Gronkowski and his "push-offs". We know the Patriots weren't going to give the Broncos any noticeable bulletin board material, so it was really a matter of time before the Broncos would complain about something the Patriots do. The first noteworthy quote comes from Brandon Marshall, who was asked by the media why Rob Gronkowski is so difficult to cover. His answer was "because he pushes off". That response comes off as dismissive to me, I guess Marshall wants to cover Gronk 1-on-1 in the Red Zone. It's kind of sad that the Broncos are appealing to the refs, who will undoubtedly give Denver the benefit of the doubt on some calls.
Now the real reason Gronk is difficult to cover is because of his superhuman combination of size and speed. At 6'6" 265, Gronk can run a 4.6 40 along with a 7.11 3-Cone, which is fast and quick for most TEs. He's too quick for linebackers and too big for defensive backs to single up in coverage, which is why teams often resort to doubling him at times. Gronk's matchup advantage is magnified in the Red Zone, where the Patriots can force single-coverage by moving Gronk out wide. Teams can't double him on the perimeter because that takes away one defender from the box and allows the Patriots to outnumber their opponent in the box and run for a TD.
In the regular season game against Denver, Gronk was called for one offensive pass interference call where he was trying to fight off a jam from Marshall. In addition you see plays like this where defensive holding and illegal contact are not called on the defense:
Hi, my name is Rob Gronkowski and I wish officials would call penalties on the defense. pic.twitter.com/NOSAGBy2qO— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) November 19, 2015
If they want to call Gronk for OPI for fighting off a jam, make sure to call it both ways and that defensive fouls are also enforced. We'll see what other complaints the Broncos players will make during the week. The AFC Championship is on Sunday.