Continuing our new feature here on Patriots.com in which we'll use Tuesday mornings to take a look back at some aspect of the previous weekend's game, this week we're focusing on Rob Gronkowski's immense blocking against Raiders. 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.
One quick look at the stats makes it pretty clear that Sunday's win in Oakland featured the most balance offensive attack the Patriots have shown so far this season. Unlike the Tom Brady aerial circus that dominated the first three weeks, the Raiders game showed New England could also be effective running the ball.
The Patriots finished with 30 rushes for 183 yards and passed the ball 31 times (including a sack) for 226 more. That kind of balance is unrealistic to expect on a weekly basis, but it was a welcomed sight to see BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Stevan Ridley carry the load a bit.
The production on the ground would appear to point to some solid work from the offensive line, and that was certainly the case. But what perhaps went a tad unnoticed was the work of tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Thomas Welch, the latter a tackle pressed into second-tight end duty off the practice squad.
The Patriots consistently attacked the Raiders off the edge, hitting Oakland for several big plays from the tackles out. That type of mindset requires a great deal of help from the tight ends, and Gronkowski was immense in this game despite finishing with only one catch for 15 yards.
Some unofficial numbers indicated 175 of the 183 rushing yards came on plays run toward Gronkowski. It's a perfect example of a player having a huge positive impact for his team without putting up gaudy statistics. It seemed every big play the Patriots had in the running game came when Ridley or Green-Ellis ran behind the big, athletic tight end, including the rookie's dynamic 33-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
The one concern (and with the PFW boys there's always something) is Gronkowski was so dominant in the blocking department we hope it doesn't lead to diminished chances to continue being a valuable weapon in the passing game. Gronkowski was targeted five times on Sunday and finished with just one catch, but he's proven through the first month that his size, strength and athleticism are almost impossible to deal with, and we look forward to seeing the big plays he's provided as a receiver moving forward.
But on Sunday, Gronkowski was as valuable as any member of the offense despite catching just one pass.
What did you think flew under the radar in the Patriots victory in Oakland? Let us know with a comment to help us celebrate Take Two-sday!