The big angle for Sunday's AFC Championship Game will be the meeting of quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning for the 17th time.
But when the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots get together this weekend, the referees may be focusing on whether Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski commits offensive pass interference repeatedly.
During a Monday appearance on PFT Live, Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall didn't mince words when discussing why it's difficult to cover the All-Pro tight end (h/t Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk): “I say ’cause he pushes off. I mean, he pushes off and he gets away with it about 98 percent of the time.”
It's not like Gronkowski doesn't ever get called for offensive pass interference. In fact, of the nine times he's been flagged this season, five were for offensive pass interference, per NFLPenalties.com. If he gets called for it, it won't come as a shock, though a 6'6" tight end should not be committing push-offs at that rate.
|Rob Gronkowski vs. Broncos|
|12/18/2011 at DEN||W 41-23||4||53||0|
|10/7/2012 at NE||W 31-21||4||35||0|
|11/24/2013 at NE||W 34-31||7||90||1|
|11/2/2014 at NE||W 43-21||9||105||1|
|11/29/2015 at DEN||L 30-24 (OT)||6||88||1|
|Pro Football Reference|
This could be something the refs look at more intently in the biggest game of the year for both teams. Gronkowski caught six passes for 88 yards and a touchdown in the two teams' Nov. 29 meeting in Denver, a game the Broncos won 30-24 in overtime.
Gronkowski was also carted off the field in the fourth quarter of that game after Denver safety Darian Stewart hit him in the knee.
Marshall was quick to note on PFT Live that Gronkowski is "a great tight end. He’s big, he’s fast. He’s faster than what you would think. And he has great hands.”
Though Marshall also praised the tight end's skills, it would be wise for the Broncos to not accuse Gronkowski of things like pushing off, especially since revenge will be on his mind after the loss earlier in the year.