Gronkowski on final play: If refs say it's not a penalty, then that's what they say

Gronkowski on final play: If refs say it's not a penalty, then that's what they say

FOXBORO -- The Patriots loss to the Seahawks wasn't decided on one play or one set of downs. But when a team faces a first-and-goal situation at the two-yard line with 43 seconds left and a chance to tie, as Tom Brady and his teammates did, that set of downs deserves a closer examination. 

Here's how it played out, leading to New England's 31-24 loss, with commentary from Brady and the target of his final pass Rob Gronkowski. 


First-and-goal from the Seattle 2, 43 seconds remaining: After completing a 26-yard pass to Gronkowski on the previous play, Brady got his team to the line of scrimmage with a plan. They did not want to score immediately. They opted to run some clock instead, bringing backup offensive tackle Cameron Fleming into the game as an eligible tight end. 

"It was just some situational football," Brady said. "We were trying to get it very close but not in."

Brady kept the snap, surged into the middle of the line, and picked up one yard on the quarterback sneak. That forced the Seahawks to burn their final timeout as they hoped to keep as much time on the clock as possible for a potential last-ditch scoring drive in case the Patriots tied the game. 

Second-and-goal from the Seattle 1, 37 seconds remaining: Fleming reported as an eligible receiver again, but instead of allowing Brady to keep it again, the Patriots called for a LeGarrette Blount run. The 250-pound back had run for three scores to that point in the game and twice from one yard out. Had he been able to plunge in yet again, it would have drawn the Patriots to within an extra point away from a tie. 

Blount followed lead-blocker James Develin between the left guard and the center. From about two yards away, Blount left his feet to try to break the plane of the end zone. However, safety Kam Chancellor grabbed his legs, and defensive tackle Tony McDaniel was a wall, and Blount was denied. 

The Patriots called timeout with 19 seconds remaining. 

Third-and-goal from the Seattle 1, 19 seconds remaining: Fleming reported as eligible yet again, and Brady took his place under center, ready to sneak it for a second time in the previous three plays. 

This time, however, when center David Andrews snapped the ball, Brady never got a grip on it. The ball rolled around on the turf for an instant before Brady was able to scoop it up at the Seattle two-yard line.

"That was, that was just my fault on the ball-handling," Brady said. "I was going left, and Dave thought I was going straight. Just my mistake."

Fourth-and-goal from the Seattle 2, 14 seconds remaining: The Seahawks were called for 12 men on the field, moving the ball half the distance to the goal line. 

Fourth-and-goal from the Seattle 1, 14 seconds remaining: Fleming . . . eligible. Gronkowski aligned wide to Brady's left, and Brady worked out of the shotgun. Off the snap, Gronkowski charged hard at Chancellor, extending his arms on the safety. 

When Brady released the pass to the back corner of the end zone, Gronkowski tried to break free and flailed toward the football. He wasn't close. And when he got up, he looked for a flag, as did several of his teammates. There was none.  

"It didn't get called," Gronkowski replied when asked if he thought there should have been a flag. "It is what it is. If it's not [pass interference] to the refs then it's not PI to the refs so . . . it is what is is. You can't really change it."

Gronkowski insisted he wasn't going into that play with the plan of trying to bowl over Chancellor, as it appeared.

"No I wasn't [trying to force a call]," Gronkowski said. "I was going in. He was playing off me a little bit. Pretty far. Farther than usual. You usually don't see that. It was a fade so I had to go up to him, make a little move. I wasn't trying to initiate contact. It just happened. Just went up to him, just wanted to get on top of his toes. That's what you're taught. Get on top of the toes, make a little move, and release outside. I just got up on his toes a little bit too much, obviously. I wasn't trying to make contact. I was just trying to make a move and get outside and catch a fade ball."

Brady said he didn't have a good vantage point to see if there should have been a penalty called. 

"I didn't see it," Brady said. "There's a lot of . . . There's always a lot of contact with that team. Sometimes you get the calls, sometimes you don't. Certainly looks like it comes down to one play, but [there] was a lot of plays in this game that we could've done a better job of. They're a good team. We knew that going in. We had to play better than the way we played. Just too careless with the ball. They weren't. Turnovers were a big factor. We had our chances. We just didn't make enough plays."

Brady added: "They play to the end. They've been in a lot of close games and it came down to one yard at the end. And we didn't get it."

Gronk -- the horse -- will not run in the Kentucky Derby

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Gronk -- the horse -- will not run in the Kentucky Derby

There was more breaking Patriots news this afternoon.

This time it was related to Gronkowski, and a health scare.

But it wasn't the Gronkowski that plays for the New England Patriots.

So it is unfortunately confirmed that Rob Gronkowski's horse will not be competing in the Kentucky Derby.

The 3-year-old colt named after Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski had a “minor setback,’’ according to trainer Jeremy Noseda when he spoke to The Racing Post.

Gronkowski was unbeaten in starts, earning his place in the Kentucky Derby field.


Prototypical Patriots: Hubbard, Ejiofor look like Belichick's type on the edge

Prototypical Patriots: Hubbard, Ejiofor look like Belichick's type on the edge

Breaking down the edge defender spot is one of the reasons the Prototypical Patriots series is such an interesting one to put together.

For instance, last year, Deatrich Wise was an easy fit. His height, arm length, production (when healthy), and the conference he played in made him a perfect fit. He was Chandler Jonesian.

But Derek Rivers, who was taken one round ahead of Wise? He didn't make the "Prototypical" list. At 6-foot-4 and 248 pounds at last year's combine, Rivers was nearly a full 20 pounds lighter than what Bill Belichick has typically looked for in his top-101 edge defender draft picks in New England. Not exactly the "prototype."

Jermaine Cunningham (second round, 2010) was 6-3, 266 pounds. Jones (first, 2012) was 6-5, 266. Jake Bequette (third, 2012) was 6-5, 274. Geneo Grissom (third, 2015) was 6-3, 262. Trey Flowers (fourth, 2015) was 6-2, 266. All powerfully built. All from Power-5 conferences.

Rivers, who went to Youngstown State, was a bit of an anomaly. What did it mean? Did the Patriots see him as a player who could pack on pounds and look like his edge predecessors? Did they see him as a more versatile weapon who could play both on the line and off? Did they simply look at his outstanding athletic testing numbers (6.94-second three-cone, 35-inch vertical, 4.61-second 40 time), and say to themselves that they could work with him?


Because Rivers suffered a season-ending injury in training camp last year, it's hard to know exactly what their plan was for him. In camp we saw him both rush the passer and play in coverage. He aligned in both two-point and three-point stances, on the ball and off.

The Rivers pick may show that the Patriots prototype is adjusting. And it may continue to adjust if the team is going to shift back to more 3-4 looks now that Matt Patricia -- who favored a 4-3 and helped change the Patriots' front in 2011, one year before he was given the coordinator's title -- is in Detroit.

Still, we generally know what a Patriots defensive end looks like. He stands between 6-2 and 6-5. He's in the 260-pound range. His arms are between 33 and 36 inches. His hands are about 10 inches. He runs the three-cone in less than 7.3 seconds. His vertical is at least 33 inches. His broad jump is about 120 inches. His 40 time is under 4.9 seconds, usually.

There's obviously much more than a list of physical benchmarks a prospect has to possess in order to be considered by the Patriots -- skill set, college production, durability and character all play a role -- but it's not a bad place to start.

Who fits that bill in this year's class? Let's take a look. They one player who likely isn't within range for the Patriots, unless he slides, would be NC State's Bradley Chubb. He's expected to go in the top-five picks and could hear his name called as early as No. 2 overall to the Giants. 



There are plenty of knocks on Davenport. He's raw. He played against lower-level competition and was able dominate because of his superior physical gifts. His hands are small (9 1/8 inches). But he checks just about every other marker from a size and athletic testing perspective, and he's thought to be a hard worker with a high ceiling as a 4-3 defensive end. He may go as early as the teens. My hunch is that, while gifted, he isn't so off-the-charts special (4.58 40, 7.2-second three-cone, 124-inch broad, 33.5-inch vertical) that he'd be worth the Patriots trading up for. 


Again, let's go ahead and start with the negatives. He ran a 4.95-second 40-yard dash at his pro day, which was a full tenth of a second slower than what Trey Flowers ran in 2015. Not good. But his 10-yard time was 1.69 seconds, which was much more in range for the Patriots. Jones ran the same 10-yard time in 2012. Wise ran a 1.68. Otherwise, Hubbard is what the Patriots want. He was productive in Urban Meyer's defense, recording 13.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks and two forced fumbles. A high school safety -- who was headed to Notre Dame on a lacrosse scholarship! -- Hubbard is quick and explosive for his size. He jumped 35 inches in the vertical and clocked a ridiculous 6.84-second three-cone drill. On paper, Hubbard is one of the best fits for the Patriots in this class, and he could be had at the top of the second round. If his 40 time drops him into the bottom of the second or top of the third round, he'd be a steal. 


Another physically-impressive defensive end, Green offers some versatility. He looks like a base end on first and second downs who could kick inside to generate pressure in obvious passing situations. He has nearly 34-inch arms and 10-inch hands, and if the Patriots do shift to more 3-4 looks, he could potentially play as an end in those formations -- particularly if he improves his functional strength. He's a little raw and a little less athletic than the parameters set above, but he's also heavier than many Patriots ends. His 4.73-second 40 time, 32.5-inch vertical, 118-inch broad and 7.24-second three-cone are impressive for his frame, and he could be a boom-or-bust second-rounder for New England. 


Making comparisons this time of year can be a little dangerous, but when it comes to Ejiofor, it's hard not to be reminded of Flowers (6-2, 265 at the combine in 2015). Ejiofor has 35-inch arms and 10-inch hands, while Flowers had 34-inch arms and 10-inch hands.'s scouting report for Flowers three years ago? "Consistent with hand placement and is technically sound." on Ejiofor? "Possesses a mature approach as a pass rusher." Neither player would be described as incredibly "quick-twitch," but Flowers has had great success as an interior rusher and Ejiofor projects similarly because of his length and power. One question mark about Ejiofor is his motor, but he dealt with an injury last season, and late in the second round he'd be worth a roll of the dice. The Patriots reportedly hosted Ejiofor on a pre-draft visit. 


It'll require some time, but if a team can find a roster spot for Aruna on special teams, and if he takes to the coaching he receivers, he could end up being a late-round find. Classic height/weight/speed prospect since he ran a 4.6-second 40 and has 34-inch arms and 10 5/8-inch hands. His three-cone was lacking (7.53 seconds), but he's explosive as all get out (38.5-inch vertical, 128-inch broad) and worth a shot some time on Day 3 since he's relatively new to the sport. From Nigeria, Aruna only found his way onto a football field as a senior in high school.



Landry is one of the best pass-rush prospects in this draft class. He might be the best, which could compel a team to call his name inside the top 10. He's undersized by Patriots standards, but an exception could be made if Belichick believes Landry is athletic enough to play a variety of different roles. The question is, would the Patriots be willing to trade way up in the first round to make an exception?


Sweat is a little light compared to other top-100 edge picks for Belichick, but he's not all that far off from Rivers. Undersized. Great athlete. Sweat ran a 4.53-second 40 and jumped 39.5 inches in the vertical. His broad was 124 inches. There are reportedly some concerns about Sweat's durability, but he could be a second-round gamble.  


One evaluator told me that Nwosu looks like a Patriot because he offers the kind of on-the-ball, off-the-ball versatility that Belichick appreciates. Athletically, he tested in the same range as bigger players the Patriots have taken in the past (32-inch vertical, 119-inch broad). That may not help his chances. But he's long (almost 34-inch arms) and a smooth athlete. Would the Patriots view Nwosu's instincts in the passing game -- he flashed an ability to cover on tape, and he's a good enough athlete to do it -- and make him an off-the-line type? Some may see "tweener." The Patriots may see "hybrid." And if they move to more of a 3-4 defense, he'd be an ideal outside linebacker. 


Another great athlete (4.65-second 40) with long enough arms (33 3/8 inches) and big enough hands (9 5/8 inches), Turay shows good explosiveness on tape. The Rutgers connection doesn't mean what it once did for the Patriots now that Greg Schiano has moved on, but the school fit doesn't matter much in this instance. This is a relatively rare athlete who needs some polish, but if he's athletic enough to rush and cover on the outside, he could be an outside 'backer for Belichick. 


Size-wise, Armstrong is right there. He has almost 35-inch arms and 10-inch hands, and his height-weight combination is within the desirable range for the Patriots. Armstrong would be even more of a fit if he was just a bit more powerful and a bit more athletic. His 40 time was fine (4.87 seconds), but his explosiveness (30-inch vertical, 118-inch broad) left a little to be desired. And he plays more like a 3-4 outside linebacker than a true end (like the majority of the players listed as "Prototypes in Range"). But on Day 3? He could be worthy of a choice and given an opportunity to make the roster this summer.