Why did the Patriots embrace tight ends?

Rise of the unit came as a result of disappointing season in 2009

Where the Patriots will really be able to exploit the advantage of using multiple tight ends is in down and distance situations where it is usually a run, but they can switch to a pass based on matchups. -- Compiled by Greg A. Bedard

‘Load’ package play

This is a play from the fourth quarter of last year’s victory over the Chargers, adapted to the present personnel. When dealing with the Patriots’ multiple tight end looks, the opponent must answer one essential question: what personnel packages are we going to use against them? Considering the package and game situation, the Chargers used only three defensive backs – two safeties and one cornerback. That left eight linemen or linebackers.

1. The Patriots could run in this instance – and if there were four defensive backs on the field, they might have – but Tom Brady (12) decides to exploit the mismatch (the essential impact of the Patriots’ tight ends) when he sees a safety matchup up on the much taller Rob Gronkowski (87).

2. Brandon Lloyd (85), in Deion Branch’s spot, runs a post, basically just to get out of the way. Lloyd’s presence makes this play even tougher to defend.

3. Aaron Hernandez (81) runs an under cross at 5 yards. He’ll have a quickness advantage over a linebacker.

4. Gronkowski stems his route to the inside slightly for 6 yards and then straightens out for another 6 yards. He then can either go straight across the middle if he feels the safety is trailing him hard, or stay a little more towards the safety if he feels he has beaten his man.

5. Brady reads the deep safety. If he runs hard at Gronkowski, Brady will throw to Lloyd. If the safety stays deep, then Brady takes Gronkowski on the cross, which he did against the Chargers for a 29-yard gain that helped put the game away.

TE red zone play

Patriots trail the Jets 9-6 with 17 seconds left before halftime and go with a no-huddle offense. This is one of the Patriots’ bread-and-butter plays in the red zone. Rob Gronkowski is the key.

1. Gronkowski (87) releases off the line of scrimmage like he’s going to run a seam route.

2. He gets up to the safety as far as possible at around the 5-yard line.

3. Dips the safety to the corner of the end zone. With Hernandez (81) running a curl, the defender is sensing it’s a “smash” concept – an outside curl or hitch, with the inside receiver breaking to the corner over the top.

4. Gronkowski, instead, crosses the defender’s face and runs a thin post toward the goal line in the middle of the field. If the safety instead dropped to defend the post, Gronkowski is to cut in at 12 yards, catch the ball and then try to bull his way into the end zone.

5. While Gronkowski is running his route, Brady (12) is mindful to hold the backside safety with his eyes or body before leading Gronkowski for the touchdown.