If there’s one thing that the New England Patriots showed the Denver Broncos, it’s the importance of having one (or two) great tight ends.
Tom Brady’s favorite target in the Patriots 45-10 win over the Broncos in the divisional round of the playoffs was none other than tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronk had a career game with 10 catches for 145 yards and 3 touchdowns.
His counterpart, Aaron Hernandez, came up with 4 catches for 55 yards and 1 touchdown, and rushed for 61 yards on 5 carries. He lined up at tight end, full back, running back, receiver, flanker, and slotback. If he’s not the Jack of all trades, no one is.
“Everybody makes plays on this team and that is why our offense is so dangerous,” Hernandez said “It is hard (for the defense) because they don’t know who to cover.”
The Broncos secondary was ripped to shreds as they allowed Brady to pass for 363 yards and 6 touchdowns, which ties the NFL record with six touchdown passes in a postseason game.
“He was on fire, man,” Gronkowski said of Brady.
He was so hot, the Broncos couldn’t even touch him. He sat back in the pocket looking more comfortable than a super model laying on the beach with a colorful beverage in hand.
“What can you say, he’s Tom Brady,” Champ Bailey said. “He’s been around the block a few times and if you’re not ready to punch him in the mouth, he’s going to eat you up all night.”
The Broncos defense was chewed up, spit back out, and kicked around all night.
“It’s not like we lost to some bums, we lost to Tom Brady and the Patriots,” Andre Goodman said. “We lost to a great team and a three-time Super Bowl winning quarterback, so we definitely have something to build on next year.”
The Patriots use the tight ends better than any team in the NFL. John Fox praised them for that all week. He knew it was coming. It came in mid-December when Hernandez led the team with 9 catches for 129 yards and a touchdown.
“I think Brady was about as sharp as I have seen him,” Fox said. “He is a terrific quarterback anyways, but I thought he had a great night. And you know, the fact that we lost a couple safeties early didn’t help.”
If there was one thing that became apparent in Saturday night’s loss, it was how much the Broncos could have used some guys like Gronkowski and Hernandez. They need reliable receivers that won’t drop the ball. They need a threat on the curl out. They need, they need, they need.
All of that is to come in the off season with the draft in April and the free agency period thereafter.
While the Broncos can admire what the Patriots have, they will be working towards breaking their own barriers. It’s the only way to advance in this league.