Patriots

There's not a lot Gronkowski can't do

595222.jpg

There's not a lot Gronkowski can't do

FOXBORO - As good a receiver as Rob Gronkowski has become - and the fact that he will inevitably set the single-season record for touchdowns by a tight end is evidence of that - he's also a devastating blocker.

It's not a lost art for the position by any means. But when you have one who can not only get open, catch and run but be a competent blocker, you have a complete player.

And Gronk, as Bill Belichick said, is more than competent as a blocker.

"Rob is long, can handle the length of outside linebackers and defensive ends, 64, 65 guys," Belichick said Monday in the wake of New England's 31-24 win over the Colts. "Hes got that kind of reach and hes a strong guy. He takes a lot of pride in his blocking. He likes to block and takes pride in having a good block. He gets excited about that. I think he enjoys that part of the game. He does a pretty good job."

Watch Gronkowski closely on running plays and you'll see what Belichick means. He stalks his assignment and finishes as well as any player on the outside. Whether it's a defensive end or outside linebacker, he can match up, as Belichick said. And his athleticism makes him able to not be out-quicked by defensive backs when they become his responsibility.

As much as anything, though, blocking duty is about willingness to sacrifice. And Gronkowski has that.

Belichick is liberal with his praise of Gronkowski - with 23 touchdowns in 23 NFL starts and 65 receptions and 13 touchdowns this year, he ought to be. But Belichick is also high on the improvement Gronkowski's made.

"There are a lot of things that hes doing better now than he did four weeks ago or back in September because he works at them, he takes coaching and does work hard on the practice field," Belichick pointed out. "He really tries to improve and do what you ask him to do. You see that on a weekly basis. He usually has a couple of plays every week that, if you reflect back to a different point in time last week or last month or whatever, you can see improvement in the way hes trying to do it.

"Hes conscientious and Brian Ferentz, the tight end coach, does a good job of staying on those guys and keeping on their technique and their assignments and everything. If the player works hard, then he should improve and I think Rob has done that."

Ferentz has an interesting job. Not only is he charged with developing Gronkowski, butalso with developing pseudo-wideout Aaron Hernandez.

With those two as the main tight ends on the roster,Ferentz is able to concentrate on developing their skills. Andhe's clearly earning his pay.

"Fundamentally, some things are the same but assignment-wise, sure some things are different," Belichick said when asked how varied the teaching is between Hernandez and Gronkowski. "Actually, those guys are interchangeable in different formations and so forth. When you only have two of them, in a way they have to back each other up in certain ways. Theres a lot of carryover. They have different skill sets, but theyre both very talented players. But certainly a large part of it is fundamentally the same."

Earlier this season, when Hernandez went down with an MCL sprain, Gronkowski moved into Hernandez' role as a virtual extra wideout. That both players can do the other guy's job AND be effective in his shows what's been accomplished since they got here.

"There are things Aaron does more of or does more than Rob and vice versa, so thats pretty common," Belichick pointed out. "Therere certain game plan things and certain skill things that one guy does that the other one sort of specializes in or vice versa that differentiates the coaching a little bit too, for what theyre being asked to do."

With119 throws being completed to the two of them this season, tight end has arguably become the strongest position onoffense aside from quarterback. That Gronkowski in particular is so valuable when the ball isn't coming to him is proof of just how valuable he's become.

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Wentz tosses 4 TDs, Eagles beat Redskins, 34-24

eagles_carson_wentz_102317.jpg

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Wentz tosses 4 TDs, Eagles beat Redskins, 34-24

PHILADELPHIA - Carson Wentz tossed four touchdown passes, and the Philadelphia Eagles overcame losing nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters in a 34-24 win over the Washington Redskins on Monday night.

Wentz threw for 268 yards and ran for a career-best 63 after a shaky start to lead the NFL-best Eagles (6-1) to their fifth straight win. But the victory was costly because Peters was carted off the field with a knee injury in the third quarter.

Kirk Cousins had 303 yards passing and three TDs for the Redskins (3-3).

The Eagles went three-and-out three times in their first four drives and had only 57 total yards before Wentz hit Mack Hollins in stride with a perfect 64-yard TD pass to tie it at 10.

That got the offense rolling.

Wentz connected with Zach Ertz for 46 yards on the next series and found him again for a 4-yard TD pass to make it 17-10.

After getting the second-half kickoff, the Eagles drove 86 yards for another touchdown. Peters was injured during the series, and fans chanted his name while teammates surrounded the cart.

Wentz finished the drive off with a play that Peters would appreciate.

While being hit by two defenders and falling forward, Wentz lofted a 9-yard TD pass to Corey Clement.

Wentz fired a 10-yard TD pass to Nelson Agholor to expand the lead to 31-17. Wentz kept that drive alive by escaping a sack and running 17 yards on third-and-8.

Cousins tossed a 7-yard touchdown pass to Chris Thompson to give the Redskins a 10-3 lead. He connected with Jordan Reed on a 5-yard TD to cut the deficit to 24-17 and threw a 12-yard pass to Reed to cap the scoring.

The Eagles were penalized on four straight plays to start their first possession before Wentz was intercepted by Quinton Dunbar on a deep pass to Torrey Smith on second-and-31.

Philadelphia swept Washington for the first time since 2013 and has a commanding lead in the NFC East. The Cowboys and Redskins are tied for second place.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Are Patriots' defensive problems solved?

best_of_bst_podcast.jpg

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Are Patriots' defensive problems solved?

0:41 - Tom Giles, Michael Holley, and Tom Curran react to the Patriots’ 23-7 win over the Falcons on Sunday night and whether the Patriots deserve to be considered Super Bowl favorites.

6:09 - Is Johnson Bademosi an upgrade over Stephon Gilmore at cornerback for the Patriots? Michael Hurley joins BST to debate with Tom Curran, Michael Holley, and Kayce Smith. They also discuss the defense’s overall improvement in Sunday night’s win.

14:37 - NBC Sports Boston’s Red Sox insider Evan Drellich joins the show to talk about the Red Sox hiring Alex Cora to be their new manager, whether it was the right choice, and how his presence will affect the Red Sox clubhouse.

22:14 - Kayce Smith and Tom Curran discuss Kyrie Irving’s vulgar response to a Philadelphia fan yelling “Where’s LeBron?” at him on Friday night.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE