Are refs holding Rob Gronkowski to higher standard with interference calls?

DENVER – Including declined and offsetting penalties, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has been called for offensive pass interference six times in 2015. No player in the NFL has been called for more OPIs.

On Sunday night, Gronkowski was flagged twice, and after the second penalty I made a note to myself to go back and watch all six penalties and make a determination if Gronkowski is being held to a higher standard. This was a topic previously explored on Nov. 20.

This is the second year in which the NFL has made offensive pass interference a point of emphasis, as officials are looking for pushoffs at the top of the route and/or the break, and they are also paying close attention to blocking down the field before the throw and/or picks.

Here is the rundown:

Date: Nov. 29 (at Broncos)

Situation: Second quarter (14:23); second-and-9 from the 50.

Crew: Tony Corrente

The call: Gronkowski was ruled to be blocking downfield, which offsets a defensive pass interference penalty on cornerback Aqib Talib against receiver Keshawn Martin that would have given the Patriots a first down, a 4-yard gain, and the ball at the 46-yard line.

My thoughts: Linebacker Brandon Marshall puts his hands on Gronkowski at the stem of the route as this just as easily could have been defensive illegal contact. There is no clear advantage gained by Gronkowski. This is a ticky-tack call.

Date: Nov. 29 (at Broncos)

Situation: Fourth quarter (5:22); third-and-5 from the New England 25.

Crew: Tony Corrente

The call: Gronkowski is ruled to have pushed off safety David Bruton Jr. This negates a 10-yard catch by Gronkowski for a first down, setting up a third-and-15 that isn’t converted.

My thoughts: Similar to the second-quarter play, Bruton makes contact with Gronkowski at the stem of the route, putting his left hand onto Gronkowski’s left shoulder pad. At the same time, Gronkowski keeps his left arm bent while absorbing contact before partially extending it as he breaks to the sideline to create separation. As NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth said, “This could go either way.” I think the NFL is a better product when calls like that aren’t made. Let both sides play through that two-sided contact, which happens on a majority of plays anyway.

Date: Nov. 15 (at Giants)

Situation: Second quarter (8:08); third-and-8 from the New England 18

Crew: Ed Hochuli

The call: Gronkowski is ruled to have pushed off defensive back Trevin Wade, taking away his 20-yard reception. Instead of first-and-10 at the 38, the Patriots end up with a third-and-17 from their 9. They don't convert and punt.

My thoughts: Gronkowski and Wade engage each other 4 yards past the line of scrimmage, and Gronkowski thrusts both arms forward to push Wade back to gain an advantage. Gronkowski has the right to use his hands to disengage, but by extending his arms to create an advantage to separate, this is a penalty.

Date: Oct. 29 (vs. Dolphins)

Situation: Second quarter (:34); first-and-goal from the Dolphins’ 6

Crew: Pete Morelli

The call: Gronkowski is ruled to have pushed off safety Reshad Jones at the goal line, negating a touchdown in the back left-hand corner of the end zone to Julian Edelman. But the Patriots score on the next play on a 16-yard catch-and-run by Dion Lewis.

My thoughts: Gronkowski pushes off Jones, extending his arms to gain a clear advantage. While the penalty didn’t have an impact on where the ball was ultimately thrown, it is an infraction.

Date: Sept. 27 (vs. Jaguars)

Situation: First quarter (4:29); second-and-10 from the Jaguars’ 32

Crew: Walt Coleman

The call: Gronkowski is ruled to be blocking defensive back Davon House down the field before receiver Danny Amendola makes a 13-yard catch. Instead of first-and-10 from the Jacksonville 19-yard line, it’s second-and-20 from the 42 and the Patriots end up settling for a field goal.

My thoughts: Borderline. Gronkowski does initiate contact with his right arm, running into the backpedaling House, but it comes at nearly the same time quarterback Tom Brady is throwing to Amendola in a different area of the field.

Date: Sept. 27 (vs. Jaguars)

Situation: Third quarter (9:51); first-and-10 from the Patriots’ 33

Crew: Walt Coleman

The call: Gronkowski is ruled to have pushed off House as he runs up the left side, negating a 5-yard catch underneath to the left side by running back James White.

My thoughts: This should be a non-call or, at the most, offsetting because House has his hands on Gronkowski the entire time and initiates contact as much as Gronkowski. Gronkowski simply tries to turn around at the top of his route, his arms never extend, and House’s momentum sends him backwards, buying the call as the ball is delivered away from them.