Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

19 Nov 2012

It's Not Bill Belichick’s Fault That Rob Gronkowski Broke His Arm

I wrote for the Slate/Deadspin roundtable again this week about why the Rob Gronkowski injury doesn't qualify as "karmic justice." If you are on the extra point team, you are on the extra point team, period, and a lot of top tight ends (like Jimmy Graham and Jason Witten) are on the extra point team. As for "running up the score," the Patriots are no different from any other team. Leaving in your starters that late may not be wise, but it is neither abnormal nor evil.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 19 Nov 2012

77 comments, Last at 01 Dec 2012, 7:06am by jenson


by theslothook :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 6:43pm

Ah Aaron,

Having your team win 59-24 shouldn't leave you with this kind of post game agita.

by MatMan :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 6:48pm

Double-click word...right-click..."Search Google for 'agita'"

Ah. Yes, theslothook, you are correct. It should not.

by Dragon Pi (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 11:06pm

Didn't think of looking it up until now. I assumed it was related to agitation and so it seems to be.

by Bobman :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 1:19am

Try growing up with the word, then using it in a paper in college, having your prof ask what the hell it is, and not being able to look it up (pre-internet days). Closest I could come was agitato, which settled things. She got the ref, I got the A, but still, way too much agita for one simple word.

by theslothook :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 4:06am

I heard the worst first during an episode of the sopranos! I can't tell you how much the sopranos formed my vocabulary for my late teens.

by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 11:02am

My mom has a thick Boston accent, and frequently accused me of "giving her ahhgita". I always thought it was probably spelled ARRRRRRRGITA by normal people.

by Purds :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 7:00pm

I think I am missing the point. Who are all the legitimate journalists who are condemning BB for this? I tried a quick Google, and all I received were journalists telling twitter idiots to shut their pie holes. Is this a case of attacking a perceived slight of BB? I don't get it.

(And, of course Gronk should have been in on the XP. I said in an earlier thread I was fine, as a Colts fan, with NE throwing late. Let's face it, NE's passing game for the most part is a running game -- short, controlled plays that have NO CHANCE of injuring Brady. He's smart enough to just fall down if there were pressure. I might, if I were a NE fan, have wanted to see the back up QB get some quality reps, but I would have had no fear about injuries to starters.)

by RickD :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 7:05pm

"Who are all the legitimate journalists who are condemning BB for this?"

Good question. Aaron probably was reading too much Twitter yesterday. I know that a lot of fans/trolls at places like espn.com and nfl.com were making the "running up the score". But "legitimate journalists"? I haven't seen any.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 10:42pm

The same "experts" who were all picking the Giants before Super Bowl XLVI, despite more than half of the 'expert picks' on each major being for New England, including some with the reasoning being "because more people think the Giants can win."

by JonFrum :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 12:44am

Scott Van Pelt on ESPN radio today. You could hear the 'he dishonors the game' whimper in his voice. Van Pelt thinks that only the gentlemen of Eaton and Harrow should be allowed on the playing field.

by Bobman :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 1:22am

That's Eton.

by MatMan :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 1:56pm

Yes, Eton, you plebeian!

by In_Belichick_We... :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 10:30am

Although "legitimate journalists" may be a stretch, the local sports radio clowns are having a field day with "why is Gronk on the XP team?"

by BaronFoobarstein :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 10:33am

I'm spoiled here in Dallas. The local sports radio guys are truly excellent.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 7:03pm

"Leaving in your starters that late may not be wise, but it is neither abnormal nor evil."

My understanding is that Gronk was no longer part of the offense on the last drive, but he was out for the PAT because, well, he's part of the special team.

Part of the issue here is that the Pats, like most teams, don't have a full "second unit" to put in. It's not like basketball where you can sub in five guys to replace the five starters. There are 45 guys on the roster, but it's not like there's a 1-1 matchup of starter -> replacement. They don't have an entire backup offensive line, for example.

In any case, football is a violent game. On any play, somebody might get hurt. I think Belichick said something to the effect of "You tell me who's going to get injured on which play, and I'll make sure he's not on the field."

As to "running up the score," the Colts last TD drive took 2:15 for the Colts to go 74 yards in 5 plays. At that point, the Pats had a 3-TD lead with 12:32 left in the game. Are they supposed to put in subs at that point? Having just given up a fast TD, and with memories of late collapses to many teams in the recent past, I don't see how they can do anything other than go out there and keep playing.

You could argue that, on the next drive, when the Pats took over from the Colts' 39 with 7:37 on the clock and a 4-TD lead, that they should have sent in the subs. But remember, the Colts had just hit a very long TD pass. The Pats were having difficulty covering Hilton and Wayne. And a team with 7 minutes and 3 timeouts certainly has enough time for four scoring drives.

So, the Pats have to burn clock. That means getting first downs. But at that point, what are they supposed to do, stop at the 1? At some point, being over-sensitive to the "feelings" of the opponents would itself be insulting.

So, on this drive the Pats did the following sequence of plays: rush, rush, pass for first down, rush, rush, rush, by which point they've got a TD.

The Colts could have played better defense. It's not like the Pats were calling trick plays or extra timeouts or anything like that. They did call one timeout late, but that was when Brady looked up and the play clock was almost at zero.

Finally, this is another occasion for "Patriots rules," whereby Patriots are not allowed to do the same thing every other NFL team does. Let's dial the clock back one week. The Ravens beat the Raiders 55-20. So the Ravens beat the Raiders by exactly the same margin that the Patriots beat the Colts. Did anybody, anywhere, complain about the Ravens "running up the score"??

No, of course not.

by Reinhard (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 7:18pm

Plus Ravens ran a fake field goal. :)

by DEW (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 7:39pm

Actually, there were plenty of articles about the Ravens running up the score, particularly concerning the fake-FG touchdown. Mind you, the conclusion of most of those articles was "maybe you shouldn't be trash-talking while losing 41-17" and that the Raiders had largely deserved what they got and/or should have stopped the Ravens.

Bottom line, Belichek is perceived by the world at large as a jerkass, and therefore it's through that lens of perception that his otherwise perfectly reasonable football decisions will be judged. This is, however, not a playground, and NFL players are not five years old, even if WRs often act as if they are. I am not concerned with the Colts' self-esteem; the *only* question at hand is if leaving the starters (particularly Brady) in late-game is a good football decision.

As for the Gronk injury, yeah, total non-issue. He'd have been out there breaking his arm if Ryan Mallett had been handing off instead of Brady.

by RickD :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 11:17pm

"Bottom line, Belichek is perceived by the world at large as a jerkass,"

This is a common abuse of the word perceive. Using an objective word to describe a matter of opinion doesn't make it more objective or less of an opinion.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 1:45am

Bottom line, Belichick is a jerkass, but that doesn't make him wrong.

by Never Surrender :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 10:19am


It's not an abuse of the word at all. Two of the three defenitions in M-W are "to regard as being such" and "to become aware of through the senses; especially see, observe."

Who said "perceive" means that one has made an objective determination? Its most common meaning is nearly the opposite: how something struck you from your point of view.

by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 10:33am

Which is DEW's point exactly: that most people believe Belichik is an ass, and whether this is true or not is irrelevant to how these same people interpret his decisions.

On the football argument, I can more or less begin to glimpse why you might want to keep your starters in on offense: the better you move the ball, the shorter the remainder of the game will be. But I still think you sit Brady with 7 min left, not because of honor or dignity, but to avoid the chance of injury to your most important player.

FO posters are a peacock. You got to let us fly!

by DEW (not verified) :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 4:01pm

Precisely. Belichek's decisions will be judged by people (especially "talk radio wonks who cheer for teams that are not the Patriots" and "talk radio wonks who cheer for the Patriots and suffer from an excess of Bostonian angst") not in an objective fashion, but through the lens of how they feel about the man.

And the debate over his running up the score or not is a valid debate, but Aaron's original point still is the most telling one: We're only talking about this because a Patriots star got hurt late-game in a blowout, but the play on which he got hurt has nothing to do with leaving his starters in, unless you want to argue that there wouldn't have been an XP kick if the backups had been playing, which is getting way too out there in the what-ifs.

by The Powers That Be :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 8:16pm

There was a tremendous amount of discussion about whether the Ravens ran up the score against the Raiders, particularly focusing on the fake field goal in the 3rd quarter. Not sure how you could have missed it.

And just FYI: while there may be good arguments that the Pats didn't "run up the score", saying that a 4 TD lead with 7 minutes left isn't safe is not one of them.

by Hurt Bones :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 12:15pm

The Ravens were up 41-17 with a third of the game left to play and they were attempting a field goal. The reason the Raiders didn't talk about running up the score is they know that their coaching staff made a high risk decision to overload one side in order to block the field goal leaving only 3 blockers on the one side. If Baltimore hadn't attempted the fake, there's a good chance they miss the field goal.

by horn :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 12:48pm

The reason you don't run up the score up 4 TDs at home with 7 mins left is to avoid the chance of injury to your best players, like Brady and Gronk.

I'll just note for the record that the Pats have not won a Super Bowl since they were caught cheating against the Jets. In fact, they are 2-4 since the 2007 Super Bowl, and one of those 2 wins was Cundiffed right in their laps after a dropped TD pass by the Ravens, or they'd have 1 playoff win since 2007.

by BSR :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 8:47pm

Don't be a moron. They were a helmet catch away from having the greatest season of all time in 2007 and have been more successful than 28 other teams since. If that is the definition of never prospering than I would think almost every other team in the league would wish they never prospered.

by dryheat :: Wed, 11/21/2012 - 9:43am

And I'll just note for the record that no team other than the Giants, Steelers, Saints, or Packers has won a Super Bowl since the Patriots were caught violating league rules.....most of which have 0 playoff wins since the 2007 Super Bowl. "Karma" must really be a bitch since it's also punishing other teams for Belichick's sins -- in an even greater fashion.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 9:51pm

At some point, being over-sensitive to the "feelings" of the opponents would itself be insulting.

Exactly. It isn't like the score is a mystery to (almost) anyone on the field. I obviously can't vouch for this feeling on an NFL field firsthand, but I can relay a similar experience at a recreational level in a different sport. When you are getting your asses handed to you, it does not matter what the other team does. If they continue to hammer you, it sucks. If they let up, it sucks.

Besides, there are five tiebreaker levels that involve touchdowns or points. How much heat would Belichick get for taking his foot off the gas in November and missing a playoff spot in January? I don't think it's happened under the current tiebreaker rules, but it has happened before: in 1979, Chicago got the final wild-card spot ahead of Washington based on best net points in all games ... by a difference of 4 points. One more TD, anywhere, would have given Washington the spot.

by Bobman :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 1:39am

RickD, as a Colts fan I am saying you are so totally wrong. You state that, "The Colts could have played better defense." Oh no, my friend, no they couldn't.

I think the proper fix is "The Colts should have played better defense." Alternate choices include, "The Colts probably wanted to play better defense" or even "The Colts of 1970, 1976, 1995, 2005, 2006 after week 14, and 2007 could have played better defense."

Always glad to help.

The rest of what you said... whatever. I accept BB's comments and most of the pro-Pats arguments. I don't love them, but they're okay. I was brought up in sports with lessons like "you never boo the opponent," "never retaliate," "you don't cheat," and "you don't run up the score." I thought the Ravens incredibly bush league for the fake FG when up 24 or whatever. Beating on the Raiders is like beating up the blind kid in grammar school for his lunch money. At least the Colts could be seen as a scoring threat.

Side note: About 8 years ago Indy was up by about 2 scores late, had the ball on their opponents' 20 or so, and after taking a knee once (might have been a pathetic one yard run up the gut), Manning took a shot at the end zone on the next play. I was really unhappy with that call and considered sending a "you clasless turd!" email to Dungy, until I heard his justification in the post-game (or next day) presser. They were taking a knee saying "okay, it's over, let's just get home without any further injuries" and the opponent was calling a TO with 2 scores to go and 45 seconds left. Dungy was pissed and called the air strike (which failed--surprising because NOBODY was expecting it). The opponent got the message and stopped with the TOs.

by Travis :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 9:21am

Colts-Ravens 2005, maybe? The Colts were up 24-0 when this happened:

Indianapolis Colts at 1:41
1-10-BLT 41 (1:41) P.Manning kneels to BLT 42 for -1 yards.
Timeout #1 by BLT at 01:37.
2-11-BLT 42 (1:35) P.Manning kneels to BLT 42 for no gain.
3-11-BLT 42 (1:35) P.Manning pass incomplete to M.Harrison.

The Ravens then got the ball back and drove the field to break the shutout.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 9:52am

Baltimore only stopped with the TOs because the incomplete pass stopped the clock. Really, that whole situation was stupid on both sides. Baltimore's use of the timeouts was pointless -- a political move because Billick didn't want to get shut out in Baltimore by the hated Colts, but which had 0 chance of actually affecting the final outcome of the game. Then the Colts took the bait and called the bomb, which was also pointless. They should have just taken a knee again on 3rd down.

by jtduffin :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 3:50pm

Hi Bobman,

Like almost everyone in the world, I suppose, I never played pro sports of any kind. But my personal opinion is that the sports lessons you mentioned, including "don't run up the score", are very appropriate for amateur sports, which IMO are indeed about personal growth and fair competition as much as they're about the final score. (If not more so.) But pro sports are different, I think. I don't want to say that no elements of "good sportsmanship" survive (or should survive) at the professional level - but I think that some of the "gentleman's" or "unwritten" rules that have good reason to exist at the amateur level don't serve the same purpose in the professional sports entertainment industry.

That's a pretty long-winded way of saying that I think not cheating is still important in pro sports, as well as not retaliating and not booing one's opponents. But I think that running up the score shouldn't be (and usually isn't) a concern for the players, coaches, etc. on either side of any pro game. Obviously in a professional game, all teams have similar opportunities to have the same resources available to them - it's not like you would ever have a AAA-level team playing against an A-level team in the NFL. So, you play against the other team as if they are a worthy opponent, even if they're not showing that much talent today.

If the other team wanted to admit that they are outclassed and there's no point in playing out the game as normal, they can always concede, right? In practical terms that would never happen in the NFL because no matter how unlikely it is to come back and win, one doesn't want to admit that one expects one's team to lose the game. And the fans pay to see a whole game, even if they end up choosing to leave early because their team is stinking up the joint today...

(Yes, sometimes the results do look as skewed as if there were that large a gap between the participants' talent levels, but I think that's generally because of reasons outside of the quality of the players on the teams, in the NFL - e.g. foolish or ineffective ownership, management, or coaching.)

by CoachDave :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 7:21pm

I completely agree that he would have been on the PAT no matter what and it's not BB's fault.

But please don't tell me BB doesn't run up the score...he's done that for years.

by Go pats (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 11:14pm

So?? Nfl players are pros, the offense is supposed to score, the defense is supposed to stop them, these guys get paid very well to do their jobs so suck it up, this is not pop warner

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 9:18am

Agree 100%, and this is coming from a Colts fan. There's no such thing as running up the score in the NFL. At lower levels of the sport, yeah, running up the score happens, and it's poor form. But if you get paid a 6-, 7-, or even 8-figure salary to play football... do your frickin' job. If someone is stomping you into the ground, play better.

I am, however, also a proponent of taking out as many of your star players as possible once the game is in hand. Any play can be the one where someone gets hurt, so exposing important players to needless risk is just not smart. (Not saying that's what happened in this case, just making a general statement.)

by Tino (not verified) :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 4:55pm

As Bobby Bowden once said, "It's not my job to stop my offense, it's yours."

by Dan S (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 7:27pm

Has anyone actually seen the video of this play? Does anyone have access to the film? I'd just like to confirm that it actually happened on that play...

by Marko :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 8:16pm

Well, ESPN showed a clip of the extra point, and he was in the game. Then they showed a clip of him leaving the field and going to the locker room (presumably shortly thereafter). That's all I got.

by Jim D (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 7:58pm

I haven't heard of anyone criticizing the Pats for Gronkowski being out there OR for them runnign up the score. There was alot of that talk back in 2007, but not much since then.

To play devil's advocate, if NE thought it was a good idea to rest Gronkowski on the last few drives, would it have really been that difficult to send someone else in there on the XP?

by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 8:34pm

And of course, there's the obvious flip side, as Belichick pointed out on his contracted WEEI radio appearance this afternoon:

"I could just hear it now, if someone else is in at wing that wasn't used to playing there on the field-goal team, and a guy came around the edge and dove in there and the holder or kicker got torn up -- 'Why was he in there? Why wouldn't you go with the same guy that's been doing it all game?' We can play that game all game. As long as you know what the results are, you always have the right argument. Players are prepared to play 60 minutes. The game is 60 minutes long. If you can take a guy out, or you want to take a guy out, you can do that. But a guy's got to play."

Hell, even Tony Dungy defended the Patriots on that, so that's saying something.

by Bobman :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 1:42am

BB's comments swayed me from the "you jerks" side to the "eh, I gues so" side. I like his bit about taking Jake out but leaving in Billy and saying "Billy, we don't care if you get hurt." Man, I use that kind of logic on my kids all the time.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 1:49am

Remind Billy to have a look at Jake's thrice-as-large contract, and he should come to the right conclusions all on his own.

by Bobman :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 2:01am

Oh sure, make Billy feel even worse! Not only is he not as important as Jake, he can't even afford to live in the same neighborhood. Rub salt in the wounds, why don't you.... I loved BB's analogy, but in reality, I assume the players know what's up. They all want to play, they all CAN play, but they also know that if a somewhat irreplacable Player X gets taken out by a 300 lb DL in garbage time, they all suffer the consequences.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 9:42am

Yes, I actually found this particular comment from Belichick somewhat laughable. You're going to tell me the players don't know there's a pecking order to the roster? It's called the depth chart. If you're at the bottom of it, you know exactly where you stand. I'd also think that your average 3rd string bench warmer would welcome the opportunity to get on the field in whatever form it may take.

And if BB is really worried about what message he's sending to the players with his substitution decisions, by keeping in Jake when you're up 35 with 5 minutes left, you're effectively telling Billy that you don't even trust him with a 35 point lead for 5 minutes. Is that really any better than telling Billy that he's more expendable than Jake? Again, the depth chart already tells Billy that.

by BSR :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 11:01am

He wasn't talking about the reserves. He's talking about starters. Not all of the starters can come out so how do you pick and choose who is important enough to pull and who isn't?

There are many ways to run a team, but the way Belichick has chosen to run his is with the mentality that the team comes before the individual. One of the way that he instills this mentality is by treating Brady as hard or harder than anyone else. You can't do that if you are treating him or others as primadonnas. This comment from Belichick is entirely consistent with the way he has always run the team. It seems to work for him.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 12:50pm

Even among the starters, I guarantee you they all know there's a pecking order of how replaceable each of them is. And without looking at the depth chart, I'd wager that every starter on the offense has a direct backup, with the exception of a situation in which you wanted to sub out all 5 OL simultaneously. That would go back to the pecking order, and I guarantee you the RG already knows he's considered less valuable than the LT.

If the team comes before the individual, then certain individuals should be able to handle the harsh realization that they are not the #1 guy on the team. And this also flies in the face of the fact that Belichick HAS, on occasion, pulled starters from games. So obviously he knows how to do it.

None of this is to say that Belichick deserves any particular blame for what happened here, but I still just think it's funny that he all of a sudden doesn't know how to manage player egos when it comes time to bench the starters.

by BSR :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 7:15pm

I think that is the point you are missing Revenge...he does know how to manage these players egos. The above is how he does it.

by horn :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 12:51pm

Well, Belicheat has made very clear over the years that he is the only prima-donna allowed in New England.

by steveNC (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 10:48pm

On a related topic, leaving the QB in with a 4 TD lead seems silly, if that's indeed what happened. Why not save the QB from a possible injury risk, even if the risk is perceived to be low, and get the backup QB some game experience (albeit in "garbage time")? Can bring the starter back in if the lead gets cut to 2 or 3 TDs. And, if someone were to say that it's OK for Brady to stay in since other teams do it, that would also be silly. Punting on fourth down in certain situations (when it's too conservative to punt by the probabilities) is not OK just because everyone does it, for example. "Everyone else is doing it" seems like an argument best suited to teenagers trying to get to go out, not in a reasoned discussion of football strategy.

by MJK :: Mon, 11/19/2012 - 11:36pm

I think all rational thinking people don't pin the Gronk injury on Belichick. It was a freak of bad luck.

On the Brady thing...I can think of a reason to leave your starting QB in in garbage time. You've presumably pulled some of your skill players out at that point, too (like Gronk), so putting the backup QB in isn't really getting him "quality reps", since he's running an offense with second stringers, against a defense that's probably given up, and mostly handing off with a huge lead, probably facing vanilla defenses and no blitzing. Is that really that much more useful than the reps he gets in practice, or the pre-season? Plus, if your starting QB is Tom Brady and he goes down with an injury, you're pretty much done, anyway, unless you have a creampuff schedule, so does it really matter if your backup is a 4 instead of a 3 on a scale of 1 to 10?

On the other hand, there's a pretty good chance some of your best skill players will go down with an injury sooner or later, and getting your second stringers chances for real-game reps with your starting QB is actually valuable. Even giving your backup RB's a chance to practice handoffs with the starting QB and respond to his audibles probably has some value, against a real defense.

Against this you weigh the chance of your starting QB getting injured. However, as I said above, he's probably mostly handing off, and is unlikely to face exotic defensive tricks or heavy blitzing, so that's probably minimal.

by Bobman :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 1:56am

MJK, I'd still opt to get a backup QB, especially a rookie, reps. If your backup is Leftwich or Hasselbeck, that makes zero sense. The biggest concern is not that Bernard Pollard takes out your QB's knee blitzing on a deep pass (if you're making that deep pass when up 3-4 scores, you deserve it) but that some frustrated, enraged jerk on the other team makes one bad decision based on getting his ass whupped all game. He drills the QB from behind even on a handoff, cracks his elbow with the helmet... something stupid. Not even a break, but a swollen bursa sac... annoying crap that nags for 4-5 weeks. If a guy like Romanowski was on the other team... would you leave your starting QB in? A lot of jerks in the world. Okay, fewer now that Romo has retired, but still.

In the 04 and 05 seasons, late in games the Colts got the rookie Jim Sorgi in for about 12 quarters, or 3.0 games worth of exposure. And he didn't just hand off--he had 90 attempts, or about 2.5 - 3.0 games worth of passes. If they had him last year, I suspect that would have paid off (with a grand total of 6 wins instead of just 2, and they'd have screwed themselves out of getting Luck!). It's an insurance thing, in my mind--both protecting your #1 guy and seasoning your #2 if you need him. Because he tastes better seasoned.

by Jerry :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 4:35am

To add to this, if you have a first-year starter, it makes sense to leave him in and get the experience, whether you're way ahead or way behind. It's a bit more experience that may help later. For a veteran, the risks far outweigh the benefits.

by RedDog (not verified) :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 5:02am

Sure Gronk should have been on the PAT team
They should not have scored a TD there. Advance the ball inside the 20, kneel four times, turn it over on downs and pin the Colts in their own territory.

BB does not run up the score against every team/every coach in the league. Additionally, high margin of victory does not qualify as running up the score (last season against the Titans, the Titans refused to show up, Pats played relaxed most of the second half).

Against some opponents, BB does take the foot off the pedal late in the game. In 2007, they kept on hammering Gibbs and the Redskins, but played reserve players much earlier against other teams. So I guess it depends on whether BB thinks you stepped on his toes.

by Alternator :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 5:11am

So, basically, the Patriots should have completely rubbed it in the Colts' noses that they were a massively inferior team, and the only way for the Patriots offense to be stopped is if they decide to stop.

Somehow that's less insulting than respecting your opponent enough to put in effort and work to beat them. Kids these days make no sense.

by BSR :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 11:03am

Who in their right mind do this with 7 minutes left in the game? Its asinine.

by SandyRiver :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 11:21am

And if they'd knelt 4X, there would be a thermonuclear-strength firestorm about how Belichick was mocking the opponent.

(quote)Kraft "On a score from 1 to 100, how much did it help us scoring that last TD?"
Belichick "One"
Kraft "Then you are a schmuck"(unquote)

Recently I read that this exchange actually occurred in 2007, only it was "How much did the sideline camera help us?"

by RedDog (not verified) :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 5:21am

I just got word of the discussion between Kraft and Belichick after the game

Kraft "On a score from 1 to 100, how much did it help us scoring that last TD?"
Belichick "One"
Kraft "Then you are a schmuck"

by PatsFan :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 9:14am

It's always been curious to me how all the pundits/haters apparently completely forget about the losing team.

Garbage time is garbage time for both teams. The game is just as meaningless for both teams. Yet no one ever complains that the losing team didn't pull its starters at the point the complainers are bitching for the winning team to have pulled its starters (as I recall for example, Luck played deep, deep into the 4th quarter and no one has said "boo" about that).

by Ryan D. :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 10:03am

Andrew Luck is a rookie QB that can always learn from any in-game experience at the NFL level at this early stage in his professional development.

Tom Brady is... not a rookie QB that needs experience.

by BSR :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 11:05am

Nonsense, he was getting crushed by a defense that was just pinning their ears back. Nothing good was going to come of that.

by tuluse :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 11:18am

Yet no one ever complains that the losing team didn't pull its starters

You must not have read my posts after the Bears-Saints game last year. I was practically screaming at the TV for Lovie to pull Cutler.

by apbadogs :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 9:37am

Do the "running up the score is bad" whiners not remember Tampa Bay blowing a 21 point lead vs Indy with about 6 minutes left in the game (10/6/2003)?? Unless we're down to a point where the opponent has no timeouts and by kneeling a team can just run out the clock, play to score. Period.

by PatsFan :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 9:47am

"When you (the losing team) stop trying, we'll stop trying."

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 3:12pm

The Buccaneers never ran a play up 21 in that game, though. The score to make it 35-14 was a pick-6 by Ronde Barber. The Bucs got the ball back next up 7, and then were conservative (three runs) but that is a different issue.

by Tballgame (not verified) :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 11:54am

How does someone break a forearm blocking for a point after? I find it far more likely he broke it earlier in the game (maybe fourth quarter) and they shot it up and he played through. I know he went to the locker room after the play, but that could simply be because he wouldn't be needed again and they wanted to take a look at it. Unless there is footage of a play that demonstrates the sort of trauma that would break an arm, I just have trouble buying this explanation.

If there is a portion of the game that doesn't matter, then why risk anyone's health playing the game? Instill a mercy rule. Up 25+ with 7 minutes left, that's game folks. Don't try to hold coaches to some type of peculiar, unwritten mercy etiquette.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 12:55pm

Someone would always claim that they COULD have come back if not for the mercy rule having thwarted them. Even down 35 with a minute to go, some coach would try to claim that.

You'd also run into possible negative fan reaction (and probably lawsuits at some point) for not providing a full game for the price of admission. Particularly if it's the home team up big -- the fans want to stick around and watch that.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 2:27pm

There'd be no basis for lawsuits, as long as you didn't start doing it mid-season. The fans bought tickets knowing the rules could end the game early.

That being said, I think the idea of a mercy rule in a professional sport is absurd, especially in a sport where margin of victory is a playoff tiebreaker (no matter how far down the list it is).

by PantsB :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 2:56pm

They ran the ball like 12 out 17 4th quarter plays, and all the passes were short. They put the backup in. Gronk wasn't playing the last series. He got hurt on a fluke play where a Colt decided to go balls out to try to block the 59th point and it got his arm wrong.

by Jetspete :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 3:07pm

As a rookie, i'm sure it made sense to have Gronk play special teams. As a veteran who is widely considered one of the 5-10 most valuable players in the league, it's pretty shortsighted.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 3:33pm

Was it 2009 or 2010 that Welker got injured in the meaningless last regular season of the game having just caught a near NFL record number of receptions.

For me, the thing to remember with Belichick is that he has a no player is bigger than the team concept. And he has the belief in his system and coaching that he can get a team to win.

And that is validated to a good extent by what happened in 2008 when Brady got injured and successfully replaced by Cassell, or when he got Troy Brown to become a DB, or using Mike Vrabel as a pass-catching TE ... hmmmm ... wonder how he might replace Gronk ...

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 11/20/2012 - 3:50pm

It was '09, against the Texans. The one caveat is that Welker got hurt on the 1st series of the game, which is a time where in most cases, even if the coach is planning to rest a player, he might be playing the first couple series (like every time the Colts rested with Manning and Co.).

I would have to think they would do a better job adjusting this time than that, as the next game was an utterly embarrassing 33-14 loss to the Ravens. This team definitely has a lot more weapons to work with.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 11/21/2012 - 6:44am

Your comment suggests you didn't read the article in detail ...

"In fact, a lot of the other most valuable tight ends in the league play on extra points. Jimmy Graham plays on the extra-point team, as do Jason Witten, Brandon Pettigrew, and Jermaine Gresham."

But I don't know. You may have read it and just disagree with that coaching strategy.

by Jetspete :: Wed, 11/21/2012 - 12:52pm

i did read the article, and yes, its a coaching strategy i disagree with. We praise coaches like Belichick for being smarter than everyone else for noticing the details. For him, the "well other coaches do it" argument holds no water.

And of the other TE's mentioned, the only one who holds a candle to Gronk in his importance to the team is Graham.

by dryheat :: Wed, 11/21/2012 - 1:06pm

And yet the Patriots lost the Cardinals game largely because Rookie safety Nate Ebner got overpowered on the wing and a kick got blocked.

Listen, I'm all for getting the starting QB out when the game is decided. Or a guy like Wilfork who could certainly use some rest. But special teams plays are important. There is one unit that goes out there and practices all week long as a protection (or return, or cover) unit. They take every rep in practice and in games. Teams don't, and shouldn't, take that continuity lightly -- the guys who practice are the guys who are less likely to screw up in a game. I really don't think this is an issue to anyone but the determined contrarians and Ron Borges.

by Gus (not verified) :: Wed, 11/21/2012 - 6:34pm

I'm surprised that I haven't seen anyone make the argument that if the starts were pulled earlier--and anyone saying a four touchdown lead with five minutes left isn't safe is completely bullshitting--the Pats probably wouldn't even have lined up for another extra point...Mallett really hasn't looked good this year, and I doubt the second team offense with him in would've put Gronk on the field.

You can dress it up any way you want, but the fact remains that the Patriots best player other than Brady was injured in a game that was completely out of reach.

by LionInAZ :: Sat, 11/24/2012 - 2:49pm

And the counter-argument is that he could just as easily have been injured in the 1st quarter --so what difference does it make?

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