New England lost to the Jets Sunday but got a big gain in the return of Rob Gronkowski.
The tight end played 51 of 79 snaps in his season debut and caught eight passes for 114 yards. After looking at the tape, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels talked easily on Tuesday about Gronkowski's performance.
"I think Gronk certainly gave us production and helped us in many ways on Sunday. [He] definitely didn't play the whole game, by a long stretch. We tried to spot him in there when we felt like he could be most effective. In many cases that was third down, or two-minute, or a few times on the fringe of the red zone where it was a situation where we were more likely to throw the ball. He was in there on some runs also, but it seemed like that was the way we chose to use him."
Quarterback Tom Brady set Gronkowski in his sights 17 times. Five of those throws were delivered on third down. Though the tight end converted just one of those opportunities, the rest of the team hardly did better; New England went 1-for-12 on third down as a team.
"I think the fact he was targeted whatever number of times it was is more of a byproduct that maybe he had some single coverage, and had an opportunity to get open and created some separation, and Tom found him," McDaniels explained.
Gronkowski did see plenty of double coverage. The thing is, he knows how to take advantage of it. Late in the second quarter, Gronkowski ran down the seam on second-and-15. Finding himself double covered, he was able to draw a holding penalty and give the offense a first down.
"Certainly he's an impact player. Any time you have guys like that who are out and you're fortunate enough to get them back, they certainly make a difference and give your team a boost."
His 6-6, 265-pound frame and natural pass catching ability allows for position flexibility and makes him a matchup nightmare for defenses. Brady admitted after the Jets game Gronkowski's mere presence opens up the field and New England's offense.
McDaniels happily agreed. And he wants to see more.
"I thought he did that on Sunday and hopefully we'll be able to build on that going forward."