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Josh McDaniels talks about ‘limited opportunities’ for Rob Gronkowski against Ravens

09.25.12 at 4:34 pm ET
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Josh McDaniels

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski had just two catches on three targets for 21 yards on Sunday night against the Ravens — from a production standpoint, it was one of the worst days of his career. Last year against the Raiders, he had one catch for 15 yards, and also had two catches for 26 yards in the Super Bowl loss to the Giants.

One of the reasons Gronkowski might have been limited in the passing game is because he was utilized more in pass protection that usual. Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels talked about Gronkowski’s perormance on Sunday night, as well as his work as a pass blocker.

“Certainly Rob can do a lot of good things for our team, so anytime that he gets involved in the passing game, I think it’s a positive thing for us,” McDaniels said on a conference call with reporters on Tuesday afternoon. “At the same time, with the position that he plays there are definitely occasions when we ask him to protect and do things in the pass protection game that give some of our other players an opportunity to get open on other schemes too.

“Rob’s always worn multiple hats in that regard and I do think it just came out in the game the other night that it ended up that there were limited opportunities. It wasn’t that he wasn’t out in the pattern and it wasn’t that Tom did a poor job of reading the defense and what have you; I think it’s just a factor of the ball came out quick sometimes and we had some other people that were in situations to make plays based on what Baltimore did defensively to us.”

Here are a few more highlights of McDaniels’ Q&A with the media:

What do you see from the Bills defensively that challenges you?

“First of all, it’s a pretty sound group. Coach [Dave] Wannstedt, we’ve played against him in the past and it’s always a group that he’s got all 11 guys playing on the same page on every play. They do a good job of getting their calls communicated and played the way they want them to play. They’re an aggressive team up front. They don’t have to blitz you to create pressure, which I think is always something that defensively that’s a big plus and something we have to do a good job of taking care of. They’ve got a really good front four and they rotate some guys in there that play behind the starting group so that they keep them fresh. They get a lot of pressure on the quarterback. They play a lot of tight coverage in the secondary and that going hand-in-hand with the pressure they create on the quarterback presents problems. They make you block them on every snap, they make you get a hat on them in the front seven on every play in the running game, they’ve got active linebackers and they make you get open against tight coverage. It will be a big challenge for us in all phases of the game on Sunday.”

Looking back on the fourth quarter and the final two drives on Sunday night, did you feel that it was too conservative in terms of the calls or do you feel like the calls were good and it was more of an execution thing?

“We always try to go out there and do the right thing on every series, whether it be the end of the game or the beginning of the game. I think our group on offense, there were some things that we did better against Baltimore and then there are definitely some things that certainly at this point in the season we still need to improve on. I always come out of the game and say, ‘Maybe if I didn’t make that call or maybe if I made another call it could’ve helped the situation.’ I’m sure that there are always things we can do better on the field once the call has been made too. I think it’s a collective effort. You’re always trying to run what gives your team the best chance to be successful and the players are obviously trying to execute it to make it go. We just didn’t do enough offensively to finish the game and we didn’t do enough offensively to end the game with the ball there at the end and we need to improve in that situation.”

What specifically did you like and think improved on Sunday night?

“There are a lot of little things. We played a game without turning the ball over which we hadn’t done against Baltimore in awhile. I thought that was an important factor in making sure that the game stayed the way we wanted it to in terms of being in the game, being close, having the lead and protecting the lead. We really made an emphasis of that because historically they’ve always done a good job of taking the ball away, so I thought that it was important that we came out of there with no turnovers and we did a good job there. I thought the guys executed our no-huddle fairly well in an atmosphere that I would say was difficult in terms of communication. I thought we did a decent job of getting our calls in and then they communicated the formation, the plays, the adjustments and all those things that they needed to do after the snap together. Then they worked well once the ball was snapped to try to make those things successful. The two-minute drive at the end of the second quarter I thought was a positive for our team. We battled and I thought the guys played hard. Certainly not perfect and we all can do better – coaches and players – and I think that’s going to be our focus going forward. But hopefully there were some things that we can build on in that game.”

When you look at the Julian Edelman 13-yard loss on the direct snap to Danny Woodhead, is it the type of thing where the other guys just made a good play and the play could have sprung big if one thing fell right or was it more of a regret?

“No, you can’t regret calling those plays. When we practice things during the course of the year and the week, we practice them with all the right intentions and that we feel like they have a chance to be successful. Hopefully we would never put a play in which we felt going into the game had a very slim chance of helping our team win. I think you practice those types of plays plenty before you actually go into a game and call one of them. It’s a play that I know we’ve run multiple times around here before and it has had some good success. There are times whenever you call something like that that a defensive player makes a good play on that particular play. You take the risk that that could happen whenever you make one of those calls. Earlier in the game, we ran a different style of a reverse and it worked just fine. There’s a risk and a reward factor that go into schemes like that and if you’re going to be willing to call them, I think at times you’ve got to be willing to live with the result when a defensive player makes a good play on them.”

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