Breaking Down the New England Patriots Offense Without Rob Gronkowski

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Breaking Down the New England Patriots Offense Without Rob Gronkowski

If the New England Patriots weren't the No. 1 offense in the NFL, you wouldn't have known it following their Thanksgiving feast on the New York Jets.

Rob Gronkowski has been a huge part of that success, reeling in 53 receptions for 748 yards and a league-leading 10 touchdowns. Certainly, losing him for six weeks would change things, right?

If not their production, certainly their approach.

Turns out, it changed neither. 

The Patriots kept at it with their two tight end set, utilizing the 12 personnel grouping of one running back, two tight ends and two wide receivers on 51 of their 70 snaps (72.9 percent).

It was "next man up" in the purest sense. 

Tight end Daniel Fells earned a bigger workload in Gronkowski's stead, with 57 snaps, his highest of the season according to ProFootballFocus.com.

Fells was utilized primarily as a blocker, and the Patriots weren't shy about running behind him, either. On an early 1st-and-10, the Patriots sent him in motion into the backfield where he acted as a lead blocker for running back Stevan Ridley.

The second-year back is known for his hard-nosed style of running, and he followed his blocker to a tough nine-yard pickup.

Run-blocking is not the extent of Fells' talents, however.

He's not the dynamic receiving tight end that Gronkowski is, but he made his presence felt on one occasion against the Jets, doing so in a trademark Gronkowski way: creating separation over the middle on a safety.

The reception was good for 26 yards.

The Patriots continued to run their offense much the same way they have all season, and Fells filled in well for Gronkowski. What does it mean going forward?

Hard to tell, really.

To be fair, the Patriots' limits offensively weren't truly tested in this game—five turnovers will do that to a team. With just four days to prepare for the game, and to prepare for their offense as it would appear without Gronkowski, the Patriots may have kept the game plan similar to avoid putting too much on the players in a short period of time.

What's more, the Patriots are prone to switch things up based on their opponent, and we've already seen a lot of change in this offense over the course of the season as the Patriots have dealt with injuries to Hernandez and wide receiver Julian Edelman.

Of course, the efficiency of Tom Brady hasn't hurt one bit, either.

Brady is throwing interceptions at an 0.7 percent clip. That's the lowest in the NFL this season, on pace for the lowest of his career and also the lowest for any quarterback to start a full 16 games in a season.

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The way he is playing right now, and all season, the Patriots have been able to deal with the moving parts in their offense without much of a problem.

The Patriots are on pace to score 592 points, which would set an NFL record for scoring in a season, breaking their record of 589 set in 2007. With tough matchups against the Texans and 49ers remaining on the schedule, their scoring pace may slow down a bit, but it looks like injuries won't be the reason.

 

Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained via team press releases.

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