Nobody without a rooting interest in the New England Patriots likes to see Rob Gronkowski on the field.
That is unless the 6-foot-6 is left as the last man in the New England defensive backfield, it turns out.
In preparation of a last-second Hail Mary attempt from the Dolphins, the Patriots set Gronkowski out there as an interception threat in place of safety Devin McCourty.
“Well, they could throw it deeper,” Belichick said when asked about Gronkowski’s on-field involvement in that spot. “They could have run the Desperado-type play, which is kind of an in between 20-yard pass, then it turned into a Desperado.”
It’s not the first time the Patriots have done this, and it certainly seemed to make sense. But the decision undoubtedly came back to hurt the Patriots, as the Dolphins opted for a hook-and-ladder versus the low-percentage Hail Mary shot.
“Every time we practice it, it’s for the Hail Mary,” Gronkowski said. “You’ve got to be ready for anything. It’s football.”
“Play kind of got messed up,” Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill noted. “I saw Kenyan [Drake] there. I’m like, ‘Pitch it! Pitch it!’ [Kenny Stills] pitches it, [Drake] came back inside – I kind of had a great view of the whole thing – came back inside, then I saw him and Gronk about 10 yards away and I was like, ‘Gronk is on the field! We got this!’
“It was pretty amazing. I was following behind and I just turned around and collapsed with the emotion of the whole thing.”
Tannehill wasn’t the only one with the sudden realization of the Gronkowski the DB mismatch.
“All of us noticed it right at the end,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said of Gronkowski being New England’s last defense. “We weren’t thinking we were going [to be] pushing it down the field like that, so we didn’t really think that was relevant to us.”
In the end, though, it most definitely more than relevant as Drake found his lane towards the goal line.
“I just saw it was Gronk in front of me and I was just like ‘Look, I’ve got somewhere to be,'” Drake said. “So I had to get in the end zone.”
“Drake runs a 4.3 and Gronk probably runs like a 4.6 or 4.7,” Tannehill remarked. “So feel good about that match up.”
“Just the way it ended, it sucked,” Gronkowski summarized. “I’ve never really been a part of anything like that. I feel like it’s going to test our character big time, how we bounce back from something like that.
“I’ve just got to make that tackle.”