Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall kicked off Championship week with the first salvo of trash talk.
When asked on NBC Sports on Monday why Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is so difficult to cover, Marshall pointed at pushing.
"I say 'cause he pushes off," Marshall said, via PFT. "I mean, he pushes off and he gets away with it about 98 percent of the time."
Gronk was cited for five offensive pass interference penalties this season, which was more than 25 teams had compiled. The Patriots were penalized for 11 offensive pass interference plays, by far the most in the NFL.
While opponents believe the 6-foot-6, 265-pound tight end is pushing off, Gronk said last month he thinks officials are targeting him with OPI calls. Given the numbers, it's hard to argue that refs aren't paying closer attention to Gronkowski than most tight ends and wide receivers.
The truth between getting away with pushing off "98 percent of the time" and being "targeted" by officials likely lies somewhere in the middle. Gronk's size and speed make him tough for defenders to match, and difficult for refs to officiate.
In the Week 12 meeting between the Pats and Broncos, Gronk compiled 88 yards and a touchdown on six catches before exiting with a knee injury suffered on a low hit.
Along with his gripe about Gronk pushing off, Marshall noted that the tight end is one of the most difficult matchups to deal with in the NFL.
"I think he's a great tight end," Marshall said. "He's big, he's fast. He's faster than what you would think. And he has great hands."