Which Will Impact Tomorrow's Game More: Rob Gronkowski's Absence or Aqib Talib's Presence?
By: Kim O'Hara | Posted: November 21, 2012
New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan, he of the “I’m not here to kiss [Belichick’s] rings”-esque sound bites, has been positively supportive in the days leading up to the second Jets-Patriots meeting of 2012. In a twenty-four hour period, Ryan first defended Patriots head coach Bill Belichick in his choice to have star tight end Rob Gronkowski block on the 59th point in a blowout victory (suffering a broken forearm in the effort), calling criticism of his decision “absolutely ridiculous”, before waxing on about the virtues of “once in a generation” quarterback Tom Brady.
Perhaps the more docile, respectful approach to pregame sound bites will benefit New York, in its quest to unseat the red-hot Patriots. New England will be without its star tight end, and to say Gronkowski’s absence will affect the Patriots offense would be a grave understatement. Gronkowski’s red zone and third down reliability have earned the third year player records and commendations galore in his young career. His big play ability will be sorely missed and not easily replicated, but there’s no doubt that New England will have a well-developed game plan in place by tomorrow evening. Tight end Aaron Hernandez should be available (he’s missed six games this season with an ankle injury) and will likely be integrated into the offense in a hurry.
You could potentially argue that the Jets are at a minor disadvantage in the absence of Gronkowski; there’s no definitive way to predict the adjustments New England will have made on a short week. But a far more troubling factor facing New York tomorrow will be the new look, Aqib Talib-starring Patriots defense. In his Pats debut, the subject of 2012’s only notable trade dazzled. He intercepted Andrew Luck early in the second quarter and returned it for a touchdown, skillfully weaving between would-be Colts tacklers en route to the end zone.
But his big turnover play was the first of four against Indianapolis, and you can guarantee New
England will be carrying that momentum into MetLife Stadium
tomorrow evening. And if Mark Sanchez
has shown us anything this season, in-game resilience isn’t it. The tenor of
the game could easily be established in the first few possessions: if the
Patriots succeed in pressuring, hitting or intercepting Sanchez, the likelihood
of the Jets quarterback getting his offense on track will plummet.
Kim O'Hara is the Associate Editor of TheFootballGirl.com. She is an avid fan of sports in general, but the NFL in particular. She has also been a contributor to ESPN the Magazine. Follow her on Twitter: @KimOHaraTFG
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