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Patriots double up on Falcons' Gonzalez


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Patriots double up on Falcons' Gonzalez


For the AJC

Foxborough, Mass. -- As Tony Gonzalez walked off the Gillette Stadium field Sunday, he ran into Bill Belichick. The two share a mutual respect and have known each other for a few years, since Belichick coached Gonzalez at the Pro Bowl.

All afternoon, the Patriots had focused on the Falcons tight end, swarming him with “bracket” coverage and rarely assigning just one defender to him.

Afterward, New England’s coach had a reason to feel good about his team’s performance in limiting Gonzalez to one catch. What did Belichick offer?

“I’m not going to tell you exactly what he said,” said Gonzalez, grinning. “Something to the effect of, ‘A double team was on today.’ ”

The tactic didn’t catch Gonzalez off guard.

Against the Patriots in 2000, Belichick’s first season, Gonzalez had a season-high 11 receptions for 147 yards and a touchdown in the Kansas City Chiefs’ 30-24 loss. That day, Gonzalez was left open in one-on-one coverage numerous times.

Belichick has never forgotten that game.

Since then, whenever the Patriots face Gonzalez, they implement a similar defense as the one they employed on Sunday. Still, the results haven’t always been ideal. Gonzalez had one, seven, four and six catches in his previous four games against the Patriots, although he had no touchdowns.

On Sunday, Gonzalez was held in check for the first three quarters. On the Falcons’ first play in the fourth, Gonzalez lined up next to left tackle Sam Baker. He ran up the field, briefly ran to the outside and then went back inside. Matt Ryan found Gonzalez open for a 16-yard gain, extending Gonzalez’s streak of games with at least one reception to 134. In his first two games with the Falcons, Gonzalez had a team-high 12 catches and two touchdowns.

“They did a good job [against Gonzalez],” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “I don’t feel like we have to concern ourselves, because we have enough weapons on offense. If they are trying to defend us one way, we should be able to move the ball and do it in different ways.”

With Gonzalez covered, Ryan distributed the ball to other options such as Michael Jenkins (five catches, 78 yards), Roddy White (four catches, 24 yards) and Jason Snelling (three catches, 41 yards).

In fact, Gonzalez was targeted only twice, the other coming in the second quarter when Ryan’s pass on third and 3 fell incomplete. Ryan then completed a seven-yard pass to White. Three plays later, Michael Turner scored on a two-yard run for the Falcons’ only touchdown.

“If this were to happen four or five years ago, I would have been in the tank, just really upset and frustrated,” Gonzalez said. “At this point in my career, this really doesn’t matter to me. I don’t care if I didn’t catch anything. As long as we’re moving the chains and the offense is clicking, that’s fine.”



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