Patriots All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski suffered a broken arm on the extra point that gave New England its 59th point in Sunday’s 59-24 win over Indianapolis. That has some people asking: Why did Bill Belichick have Gronkowski in the game?
Longtime Boston sports columnist Ron Borges made the point on Comcast SportsNet New England that Belichick’s use of such an important player as Gronkowski on such an unimportant play as an extra point late in the fourth quarter of a game in which the Patriots are leading by 34 points is a mistake.
“I’ve never understood some of these decisions that get made, to use some of these guys on special teams,” Borges said. “Why are you doing this? I don’t get it. . . . I’ve never understood it. It’s very head-scratching. If it were me I wouldn’t have him on extra points, period.”
If whoever the Patriots put on the extra point team in Gronkowski’s absence over the next few weeks misses a block, and the Patriots have an extra point blocked because of it, then perhaps Belichick would be vindicated. But it seems awfully unlikely that Gronkowski’s absence would hurt the Patriots on special teams. What will hurt the Patriots is that they’re now going to be without one of their best players, probably for a month or two.
In fairness to Belichick, however, Gronkowski is a good blocker, and it makes sense to have him on the field goal unit for that reason, and teams use the same players on extra points as they do on field goals. You could argue that Gronkowski should be pulled from field goals and extra points when the game is no longer in doubt, but Belichick is far from the only coach who would simply leave in the same extra-point personnel that he’d been using all game, no matter the score.
Belichick might, however, be the only coach in the NFL who would have his starting quarterback throwing passes well into the fourth quarter with a four-touchdown lead. Tom Brady stayed in the game even after the Patriots went up 45-17 in the fourth quarter and put it out of reach, and Brady completed a 13-yard pass to Wes Welker with five minutes remaining in the game, with the Patriots leading 52-24. In my own opinion, having Brady risking an injury by throwing a pass late in the fourth quarter with the Patriots up by 28 is more egregious than leaving Gronkowski on the field for an extra point.
But Belichick doesn’t care about my opinion, Borges’ opinion or any other opinion. He has always had an unusual approach to blowouts, in that he’d rather step on the opponent’s throat than pull his starters and give his second-stringers some live game action. That’s his right, and even Gronkowski’s injury probably isn’t going to change his mind.