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Steelers-Patriots play to watch: Shotgun 3 wide tight end seam route

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Steelers WR Antonio Brown vs. Patriots CB Aqib Talib

MATCHUP: Brown easily has been the Steelers' top receiver this season but will face his toughest matchup in Talib. Coming off a hip flexor injury, Talib has shut down the likes of Jimmy Graham and Roddy White. Brown has been targeted 73 times this year by Ben Roethlisberger.


BROWN: He is on a record pace despite the Steelers' offensive struggles. His 56 receptions are the most in the NFL and most by a Steeler through seven games dating to 1960. In six of seven games this season, Brown led the Steelers in receptions and receiving yards. His 630 receiving yards rank ninth in the NFL. He has four games of seven or more receptions this season. He had four during his first two years in the league.


TALIB: He has been one of the most prolific cornerbacks in the league not only in interceptions but also in returning them for touchdowns. Since 2009, Talib ranks fourth with 19 interceptions and is tied for third with four returned for touchdowns. He has four interceptions and nine pass defenses this season. Talib faced the Steelers in 2010 while with the Buccaneers and allowed a 41-yard touchdown catch by Mike Wallace.

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Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, 10:04 p.m.

You think Tom Brady was happy to have tight end Rob Gronkowski back from injury two weeks ago?

Brady threw the ball to his All-Pro tight end 17 times and in every way imaginable — to the left, to the right, over the middle and deep down the middle on the shotgun 3 wide tight end seam route.

At 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds, Gronkowski does his share of damage around the line of scrimmage, but his freakish speed and athleticism create terrible matchups for opposing defensive coordinators.

If you put a linebacker on him, he will run by you.

If you put a defensive back on him, he will overpower you.

“He is young, but he is savvy,” Steelers safety Ryan Clark said. “When he draws that contact and you try to fight with him, it gives him opportunities to push off and create separation. And when you are 6-6, all you need is a tiny window to put the ball into.”

That's one of the reasons the Patriots like to use Gronkowski in their vertical game and especially with seam routes.

NFL tight ends aren't going to run up the seam and allow a safety to sit on the route, and nobody adjusts his route to create space better than Gronkowski. His vertical release on the seam route includes a slight outside stem that creates space when he eventually bends it back toward the middle of the field.

A safety can't allow a tight end the size of Gronkowski to break in front of him in deep half alignment. Gronkowski will just use his size to shield the defender away from the ball for an easy catch. That means the deep safety has to be accurate with his angles.

The Patriots' favorite version of the seam route will have a bunch formation to left of the field with Gronkowski standing up just outside the left tackle. Receiver Julian Edelman is in the slot to Gronkowski's left and Danny Amendola is split to the far sideline.

Kenbrell Thompkins is split wide right with running back Brandon Bolden behind right tackle Marcus Cannon and Brady in the shotgun.

At the snap, Edelman and Amendola run a combination route with Amendola crossing in at 10 yards and Edelman cutting out right inside of him. On the other side of the field, Thompkins runs a deep in, with Bolden going out into the pattern or helping to block, depending on whether the opposing team blitzes.

The play is designed to get the ball to Gronkowski down the seam of the field on a vertical route. The seam route basically is a go route with adjustments depending on coverage.

Against man coverage, Gronkowski will try to beat his man with his speed. Against Cover 2, he needs to split the safeties to create a throwing lane. Against Cover 3, he needs to adjust his route wide, and against Cover 4, he needs to break off the route underneath.

Teams try to knock Gronkowski off his route at the line of scrimmage, but as big as he is, it rarely happens.

With the Steelers likely to play a lot of press coverage in their quarter package and having only one single high safety, Brady will take a shot or two with Gronkowski deep and down the middle of the field on the shotgun 3 wide tight end seam route Sunday.

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.




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