The New England Patriots tight end duo of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski make the Patriots offense one of the toughest offenses to match up against in the NFL. However, it is the fact that the Patriots have both of those tight ends that makes each one so dynamic.
In the Patriots 45-10 win over the Broncos Saturday night, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick added a new wrinkle to the playbook by using the second year tight end Aaron Hernandez as a running back. While bringing Hernandez out of the backfield does create problems for opposing teams and might be a good idea, it’s when Belichick used Hernandez that has people scratching their heads.
With the Patriots leading the Broncos 45-10 in the fourth quarter, Hernandez was lined up in the backfield as a running back even though the game was no longer in doubt. The scary moment for the Patriots came on a goal-line run where Hernandez took a hard hit by the Broncos defense after gaining a couple of yards. Hernandez left the game with what the team listed as a head injury and did not return. As reporters crowded around his locker after the game, Hernandez confirmed that he was fine and there was no doubt he’d be playing next week in the AFC Championship game.
While most teams would pull their most important players when they have a lead such as the Patriots did against the Broncos, Bill Belichick is known for keeping his foot on the pedal and playing his starters regardless of the score. However, the running back position is probably the most brutal position on the field so putting an important player like Hernandez in the backfield especially when he’s not used to taking that sort of punishment borders on reckless.
Luckily for the Patriots, the injury was not bad for Hernandez and he’ll be ready for the AFC Championship game. Hernandez said after the game that he’d like Belichick to allow him to continue to lineup at running back but after this incident, you wonder whether the Patriots would be willing to do that especially if they have a healthy lead. More importantly, you wonder if it would be too careless to allow Hernandez to do that if they have a healthy lead. We’ll find out how this close call affects how the Patriots use Hernandez next Sunday in the AFC Championship game.