In case you haven't noticed: Rob Gronkowski is really good at football. He is a three time All Pro. He is a Super Bowl winner. He holds numerous team and NFL records. And he finished the 2015 regular season with 72 catches for 1,176 yards and 11 touchdowns.
On Saturday against the Kansas City Chiefs, Gronkowski added two more scores (on seven receptions for 83 yards) to his 2015 resume, putting him ahead of Vernon Davis and Hall of Famer Dave Casper as the tight end with the most postseason touchdown catches (8).
Let's take a look at the film to analyze Gronkowski's two touchdowns.
1) 3-7-KC 8 (10:28) (Shotgun) 12-T.Brady pass short left to 87-R.Gronkowski for 8 yards, TOUCHDOWN. NE 87-Gronkowski 7th career postseason receiving touchdown, ties David Givens for franchise record and ties all-time for postseason rec TD by a TE (Casper & Davis).
Gronkowski's first touchdown reception of the day came on New England's first possession of the game. On the play, the Patriots offense aligned in an 11 personnel double-slot formation with Gronkowski (87) flanked out wide left. He is joined on the field by skill position players (left to right) Julian Edelman (11), Brandon LaFell (19) and Danny Amendola (80), with James White (28) lining up next to quarterback Tom Brady (12) in the backfield:
Kansas City played cover 3, used one safety over the top and played man-to-man coverage across the board. While Gronkowski and Edelman were covered closely at the line of scrimmage by defensive backs Sean Smith (21) and Eric Berry (29), respectively, LaFell and Amendola were given a 10-yard cushion on their side of the field. Kansas City showed a five-man pressure pre-snap but rushed only four, with linebacker Dezman Moses (54) the one player to not rush the passer.
At the snap, Moses and fellow linebacker Derrick Johnson (56) dropped into the underneath zones, while safety Tyvon Branch (27) moved up the field to help Berry double-team Julian Edelman:
Despite rushing less players than originally shown by the Chiefs, New England's offensive line – which had arguably its best game of the season given the opponent – did a good job of keeping pressure away from Brady. The line's job was made easier by the fact that Brady was able to get the ball out quickly: only 1.6 seconds passed from the moment center Bryan Stork (66) snapped the ball until the quarterback released it.
Edelman being double-teamed underneath and the linebackers dropping into the zones in the middle of the field, left the outside receivers – Gronkowski, LaFell and Amendola – on an island with their defensive backs:
6'6 Gronkowski beat 6'3 cornerback Sean Smith at the line of scrimmage by faking an inside release but immediately cutting up the field; he beat him at the goal line by turning back towards Brady and by being physical at the top of his route (referee Craig Wrolstad called a good game and let both teams play; rightfully no flag for offensive pass interference was thrown). Brady delivered a perfect pass to where only the tight end was able to catch it:
The connection shows how the Patriots' offense functions as a whole when all the pieces are intact. The Chiefs elected to use two defenders on Edelman but in turn left Gronkowski on an island – the tight end took advantage of his one-on-one match-up against Kansas City's biggest cornerback. As a result, Brady was able to quickly release the football as one of his receivers got open – giving the offensive line a little more potential leeway. Add it all up and it can be seen why the Patriots have one of the most lethal offensive attacks in the game.
2) 1-10-KC 16 (8:29) (Shotgun) 12-T.Brady pass short left to 87-R.Gronkowski for 16 yards, TOUCHDOWN. NE 12-Brady 17th career postseason game with 2 pass TD, extends his NFL record (Favre 15). NE 87-Gronkowski 8th career postseason receiving TD, new franchise record and new all-time record for postseason rec TD by a TE.
The second Brady-to-Gronkowski scoring connection of the game happened midway through the third quarter, after Dont'a Hightower recovered a Kansas City fumble and gave his team the ball at the New England 31-yard line. It took the Patriots only four plays to get into the red zone; on the fifth the team took a 21-6 lead.
Gronkowski was originally lined up on the outside shoulder of left tackle Sebastian Vollmer (76), but Brady changed the play pre-snap to flex Gronkowski out to the far left. Once again the Patriots had 11 personnel on the field, with White in the backfield to Brady's left and Edelman, Amendola and LaFell on the right side of the formation:
Kansas City again played man-to-man coverage across the board with a single high safety over the top. The defense rushed four with two linebackers dropping into coverage of the underneath zones. While the outside receivers were given a ten-yard cushion, the defenders responsible for Edelman and Amendola played closer to the line of scrimmage (seven and three yards off):
After the snap, the offensive line did another good job of giving Brady enough time in the pocket. Tackles Vollmer and Marcus Cannon (61) won their one-on-one match-ups against Tamba Hali (91) and Dee Ford (55), respectively, while guard Shaq Mason (69) teamed up with Stork to block defensive tackle Dontari Poe (92). Josh Kline (67) was able to win his battle against Allen Bailey (97):
Because he had enough time in the pocket, Brady was able to use a pump-fake to freeze safety Eric Berry, who was in coverage of Gronkowski. The All Pro Berry bit on the combination of Brady's pump and a fake hook route by Gronkowski, who instead of turning around for the ball, headed back up towards the endzone:
With Berry out of the picture, Brady delivered a perfect touch pass to Gronkowski, who caught it at the 2-yard line and reached the endzone for his second touchdown of the day. Despite Tyvon Branch recognizing the route quickly and tackling Gronkowski immediately after he caught the ball, the tight end was able to hang onto the football for the score.
As has been the case on the first touchdown, Brady and Gronkowski displayed great chemistry and were able to use it to get their eighth postseason scoring connection.