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Rob Gronkowski isn't walking through that door.
Losing your biggest and strongest weapon is never conducive to red-zone success, but a team featuring three receivers under 5'11"—Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Josh Boyce—is going to miss a man of Gronkowski's stature.
In Monday's conference call, head coach Bill Belichick wasn't happy with the overall execution inside the 20-yard line:
I thought we had a mixture of plays in the red area. The first drive, we hit the quick out to Julian [Edelman] down there on their sideline and we were second-and-four, which isn't a bad place to be and ended up not being able to finish it. Then I think on the other series, we ran the ball on second down – first down threw it, second down we ran it, got it to third-and-two and they pressured us and we weren't able to get a good execution on the passing game. They were trying to disguise their coverages.
They pressured us some down there, they showed some pressure and pulled out of it, which are things they've done in the past. It's kind of what they do, it wasn't anything we hadn't seen before but they did a good job of it. We probably need to collectively, from our plays to our execution, just obviously need to be a little bit sharper down there.
While Patriots fans will have to wait until 2014 to see Gronkowski again, there are two potential saviors waiting in the wings for New England.
Aaron Dobson—6'3"—and Kenbrell Thompkins—6'0"—are two players who have the ability to succeed in the end zone. Instead of having to separate horizontally—tougher to do in such a compacted area—Dobson and Thompkins have the leaping prowess to win on fade routes. The threat of the fade also opens up the quick slant.
If the Patriots can't improve on their current red-zone touchdown scoring rate—55.17 percent—their margin of error will get that much smaller.