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Take Two-sday

Posted Sep 11, 2012

Rob Gronkowski's shoe-top grab was not only a terrific catch but it also came at a deceptively key juncture.

We’re back with our regular Tuesday feature on Patriots.com, where we take a more analytical look back at some aspect of the previous weekend's game. Each week we'll focus on some play, call, player, issue or other aspect of the game that may have been overlooked in the first wave of coverage. The idea is to shed some new light on an area that didn't get its due coverage the first time around.

Anytime a team opens the season with a convincing road victory there aren’t a lot of areas that generally go unnoticed. The Patriots 34-13 win was equal parts offense, defense and special teams, with the team receiving significant contributions from the rookies on defense and the running game – two areas that haven’t necessarily been huge factors in the recent past.

Chandler Jones’ strip sack and Stevan Ridley’s brilliant 125-yard performance were huge parts of the postgame coverage, as were the front seven’s dominance of holding Chris Johnson to 4 yards in 11 carries and the offensive line coming together nicely in the wake of a tumultuous preseason.

But there are always key plays and sequences that fly beneath the radar, and when the game winds up as a lopsided affair they can sometimes be forgotten. One such play occurred midway through the third quarter as the Titans were trying to dig their way out of a huge hole.

Tennessee had just scored to cut New England’s lead to 21-10 and now the LP Field crowd was trying to do its part to help the defense get the ball back. Tom Brady was in the midst of a slightly erratic period and was facing a third-and-six from his own 24. On the previous series he threw low to Julian Edelman on a screen and the wideout couldn’t scoop it up before it hit the turf. Then he was short again trying to hit Brandon Lloyd near the left sideline to open this series.

Now he needed to move the chains, otherwise his defense would have been right back on the field after having just surrendered a touchdown and the crowd would have been electric with dreams of a comeback. So, Brady did the wise thing and looked for his All-Pro tight end and was rewarded.

But his pass was a low bullet, making things awfully difficult on Gronkowski as he struggled to maintain his balance while reaching down to make the catch. The big tight end managed to snare it just off the top of his cleats and lumbered forward to pick up 7 yards and the first down. But Gronkowski’s work wasn’t done.

Moments later the Patriots faced another difficult task with a third-and-nine from the 32. Not surprisingly, Brady looked for Gronkowski again, and his 9-yard catch in traffic continued the drive and chewed up two additional minutes off the clock.

When the Patriots finally punted they forced Tennessee to take over at its 10, and after a Titans punt the offense was back on the field. Taking over at the Titans 48, it took just six plays for the Patriots to effectively end the game with a 1-yard Ridley touchdown run.

But Gronkowski’s catches allowed the Patriots to hold off the Titans momentum before eventually regaining control and coasting to a well-earned victory.

What did you think flew under the radar in the Patriots season-opening win in Tennessee? Let us know with a comment to help us celebrate Take Two-sday!

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