Tedy Bruschi tries to maintain some sense of journalistic detachment while watching football games as an NFL analyst for ESPN. But even though he’d picked the Colts to beat the Patriots on Sunday night, the former New England linebacker couldn’t help himself in the middle of the game.
“The Colts attempted to be tough. They attempted to come back and punch back, but the Patriots took out their heart and they left it by a TV camera,” Bruschi said, referencing Rob Gronkowski bulldozing Indianapolis safety Sergio Brown on a Jonas Gray rushing touchdown. “I picked the Colts to win, but was I high-fiving my kids when Gronk threw that kid on the TV camera? Absolutely. It was awesome to see, and just to see the toughness of [Julian] Edelman and the toughness of Gronkowski and just this team to respond the way it did was a great sign for this team.
“I don’t think anyone on the team had a problem with that [penalty],” added Bruschi. “It just took me back when I saw Gronk throw that kid into that TV camera. That made me fired up and that old Patriot in me came out.”
Bruschi suggested that teams have yet to find a successful formula for handling Gronkowski. Indeed, Bruschi suggested that the tight end is the best player he’s ever seen at the position.
“All the tricks have been implemented on this guy. All the tricks. And you still see him throwing guys off. Even the blocking element he has. You’re ready for coverage but all of a sudden he’s lined up in the line of scrimmage and he’s a blocker,” said Bruschi. “In my lifetime, Gronkowski is the best tight end I’ve ever seen, to tell you the truth. Gonzalez, Tony Gonzalez was special. He was. But the toughness of Gronkowski, to me, puts him over the top, because we’re talking about the tight end position. We’re not talking overblown wide receivers like a Jimmy Graham and other guys who just go out there and blocking isn’t part of their vocabulary. This is a guy that does it all, that whole tight end thing of blocking and toughness and setting the tone, things like that. Gronkowski is who you should be as a tight end.”
To listen to the complete interview, visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page. Here are some additional highlights.
On the Patriots’ dominant rushing attack against the Colts: “I didn’t know that was in them, that they could just dominate the line of scrimmage like that and run the ball in obvious running situations, basically running and saying, ‘Yes, this is what we’re going to do again, and do you think you can stop it this time?’ Jonas Gray having the day that he had, this offensive line, where it’s come, you just can’t underestimate the value of good coaching, of continuing to try to find the right combinations and the right players of running backs, interior offensive linemen, who you use at the tight end position, how they keep searching for it and then it all came to a head last night with all of the success they had running the ball.
On whether one offensive lineman’s progress has stood out: “I think you’ve got to look at [center Bryan] Stork and how he’s been able to look more comfortable in there. I’m not saying he’s a road grader in there, because he’s not. Maybe he progresses to that. He still gets blown off the ball a touch, but he’s able to stay in position almost like he’s learning to almost attempt to take the defender where he wants to go and trusting his running back to find his hole off of his block rather than continuing to try to blow somebody off the ball, which isn’t his strength right now. I think he’s starting to use his mind a little more. That’s what the best centers do. They’re never the strongest. They’re never the most physical. Linebackers can even handle them in one-on-one situations when you have a two-gap. The savvy centers, those are the ones who really succeed in this league. Maybe Stork is getting to be that way.”
On the Patriots defense‘s performance against the Colts running game: “The linebackers, I’ll just talk about [Jamie] Collins and [Dont'a] Hightower. I don’t think they’re robotic anymore. That’s easy to be when you’re young in a Bill Belichick defense. [When] you’re robotic, it’s, ‘OK, my coach has told me once I see this run to go up, take on this guard this way, protect this gap. This is what I’m supposed to do.’ When you start to feel a little bit more comfortable as a linebacker, you start to trust your instincts a little bit more and even though that’s where I’m supposed to be, as a play progresses, your instincts tell you, I don’t need to do that even though they want me to, and if I take this chance, I have the ability to make that. These two linebackers have that ability, once they see something, to act on it. That’s what they’re doing now. Rather than just doing what they’re told to do, they’re also adding their own individual aspect of it. That’s what makes the defense special, especially this defense at the linebacker level.
On Tom Brady‘s performance: “What I’m most excited about was that although Tom didn’t play his best — I think the whole game, it wasn’t a Brady-esque game — the team still won, and the team still dominated. I think that’s what Patriots fans out there should be most excited about that the other aspects of this team can even be more valuable than the quarterback play. I think that was their problem a few years back in getting to this point to where you’re actually looking to Brady all the time, to where you need to put up MVP numbers for us to be successful, for us to win football games. Last night they showed it doesn’t have to be that way and there are other elements of this team. It just fired me up to watch because it’s so, ‘Brady-Belichick, Brady-Belichick, Brady-Belichick.’ It’s just not that way. It wasn’t last night. That’s what you should be excited about. That’s how you get really far when you get into the tournament and possibly when you get into the big game, when you have other aspects of your time really contributing like they did last night.”
On Andrew Luck: “I overestimated what Andrew Luck was becoming as a quarterback. … I think I overestimated his development. Last night, he still made some of the same mistakes he made last year, a couple years ago. … He’s still not ready.”