Colts deploying 'all hands on deck' to cover Gronk

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  • By Jeremy Bergman NFL.com
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There are plenty of storylines going into this week's highly-anticipated rematch/grudge match/battle royale between the Patriots and the Colts.

Will Dion Lewis run rampant over his former team? Will Andrew Luck return from injury and turn the team's fortunes around? Will New England score 100 points? All of these are valid and realistic anticipations, void of hyperbole.

What we can expect on Sunday, with certainty, is that Rob Gronkowski will have yet another monster game. His production in 2015 at first glance -- 375 yards, four TDs through four games -- appears hyperbolic for a tight end, but this is what we've come to expect from Gronk. He is on pace to hit 1,500 receiving yards this season, which would be a career high, and his presence on the field has demanded constant, and near-obsessive attention from opposing secondaries. That won't change come Sunday night.

"It's all hands on deck so to speak," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said, regarding Gronk. "He is a matchup nightmare. You've got to pick and choose and try to change up."

Every game, all season

"I'm every bit of 5-11 and he's 6-9," Colts safety Mike Adams added. "He's going to get his catches. You can only limit him. He's a great player. There's not much you can do with a guy of his size, his stature."

Gronk's a matchup nightmare again. What's new? The Colts realize it, as have numerous teams before them.

It was nary three weeks ago that Bills coach Rex Ryan, quixotic in his pursuit of destroying Bill Belichick's evil empire, mused that Buffalo would not "ask one guy to cover him. He'd have to look like King Kong."

Instead, Ryan deployed members of the secondary -- cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore, Nickell Robey and Ronald Darby -- to confront and upset the Beast, and they were hardly successful. Gronk torched Buffalo for 113 yards on seven receptions and a touchdown. The Bills tried to cover him like a wide receiver, and he treated them as though he was one, running crisp slant patterns in the red zone and boxing out defenders on streaks. All this came against Ryan's vaunted defense, which had frustrated Gronk when the coach was with the Jets, holding him to a 57.6 yards per game average in eight contests.

In short: Gronk is on another level this year, and he's making his teammates better for it.

"He's not the only one that's a problem," Pagano continued. "If there was just one guy that you had to deal with, then you could devote half your defense to them, but unfortunately they've got more. They've got the quarterback. They've got the offensive line. They've got three runners. They've got a bunch of guys that can beat you. He's a unique, unique, unique player. He's got an unbelievable skill set for a big, big guy."

Tom Brady has yet to throw an interception, Lewis has developed into an All-Pro elusive back and Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola are continuing to find open space vacated by Gronk's defenders -- turning close games into track meets. With opponents paying this much attention to Gronk in pregame and during the game, they've neglected to account for the other myriad offensive pieces at Belichick's disposal. Playing against Gronk and the Pats is a lose-lose game, and no defense has come close to breaking the trend.

The Colts haven't had much success in the past against the tight end, either -- he's burned them in four contests for 297 yards and six touchdowns, including one rushing. If the Indianapolis defense -- which surrendered 362 passing yards to the Texans' pathetic passing platoon -- can stop or even slow down­ Gronk and the Pats, that would be a King Kong-sized accomplishment in itself.

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