What were the Patriots Thinking?

The Patriots are known to have their struggles in Miami. Tom Brady is now 7-10 career when he plays there and has lost 5 of his last 6. No one can really seem to explain why this happens. No matter how bad the Dolphins are, the Patriots find a way to lose. Well it finally looked like the Patriots had beat the Dolphins, despite poor kicking from Gostkowski and poor clock management at the end of the first half. 

However, the Dolphins had a different plan. With 7 seconds left and the ball on their own 31 and no timeouts, the Dolphins needed a miracle. Very few quarterbacks in the NFL can reach the end zone from that distance. Ryan Tannehill is not one of those quarterbacks.

So either the Dolphins would need to try a quick play out of bounds to get closer for a Hail Mary or they’d need to try a pitch play. Well, they opted for the pitch play and it was perfectly executed. One pass and two laterals later, Kenyan Drake was beating the last Patriots defender to the pylon for a walk off touchdown. 

But here’s my issue: that last defender was Rob Gronkowski. Many teams (including the Patriots) like to put their biggest and best athlete (usually a receiver) guard the goal line on a Hail Mary. Which makes sense. But why did the Patriots send in Gronk there? Tannehill is not known for his exceptional arm strength. There’s no way he could get that ball close to the end zone. If any other defender is in the game there, they probably make the tackle and end the game.

My second (potentially bigger) issue is: why is Gronk in there period? Even if it was a Hail Mary situation, is Gronk really the best option anymore? I know he’s 6’7 and reasonably athletic, but there’s so many issues with him defending the end zone.

For starters, he’s very injury prone. Why would you risk him getting injured on a play that he doesn’t even train for? Second, You’re telling me Josh Gordon isn’t a better option? He’s a few inches shorter (6’3) but considerably more athletic. If you asked me who has the higher vertical, I would take Gordon in a landslide. If he’s in on that play, he at least gets a chance to make that tackle. 

Belichick is obviously a great coach (The best in my opinion), but I think he outcoached himself on his one. Just when it looked like the Patriots had finally beat the Dolphins in Miami, the Dolphins turn in an unbelievable play, made possible by Gronk not being a suitable last defender. Luckily for New England, this loss isn’t a huge deal, since the two teams that could’ve jumped them (Pittsburgh and Houston) both lost as well. 

-Stephen Brown III (@sbtrey23)

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