Gronkowski injury will not slow down Pats

Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports

Rob Gronkowski's injury won't slow down the Patriots offense Sunday.

Rob Gronkowski is out for the rest of the postseason, but that doesn’t mean the New England Patriots' two-tight-end offense will go away. After Gronkowski’s injury last Sunday, the Patriots used multiple tight end sets on 50 of their 58 plays. For the entire game, they used at least two tight ends on more than 86 percent of their plays, their second-highest percentage this season.

Patriots Rushing With 2+ TE
Past 2 Seasons (incl. playoffs)

The Patriots have become a more balanced team with multiple tight ends on the field. Including the playoffs, they’ve called a designed run on 55 percent of plays out of multiple tight end sets this season (41 percent last season, which was the second-lowest rate in the league).

Not only have they run at a higher rate, but they’ve been more successful.

Expected Points Added (EPA) measures the sum of the differences between the expected points before the play and after the play based on 10 years of NFL play-by-play data.

Despite Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez missing a lot of time this season, the Patriots averaged 5.2 EPA per 100 designed rushes this year out of multi-tight end sets (including playoffs) -- they averaged just 1.8 EPA per 100 designed rushes out of those formations last season.

That has contributed to the Patriots leading the NFL in EPA on all designed rushes -- 14 points more than the second-place Redskins. That’s more than the difference between Washington and seventh-place New Orleans in that category.

The Patriots ran for a first down every 3.2 carries out of multiple tight end sets, the best rate in the league. All eight of their rushing first downs Sunday, including both rushing touchdowns, came with two tight ends on the field.

Tom Brady

Tom BradyNew England’s success in the running game has allowed Tom Brady to maintain his production despite Gronkowski and Hernandez missing time. His Total QBR out of multiple tight end sets increased from 74.5 last season to 76.9 this season.

Consider that Hernandez and Gronkowski were on the field together for 922 plays last year (including playoffs), compared to only 169 plays this season.

Michael Hoomanawanui played in all 50 multiple tight end sets after Gronkowski’s injury against the Texans, and filled in admirably as a blocker. Patriots rushers averaged 5.3 yards per rush out of multiple tight end sets Sunday, their second-highest average this season.

The Ravens allowed the fourth-most yards per play (5.5) against multiple tight end sets during the regular season. Look for the Patriots to continue their success running and passing with multiple tight ends Sunday.