TE Tony Gonzalez, Free agent
HT: 6-4, WT: 244, Born: 2-27-1976, College: California, Drafted: Round 1, Pick 13
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2013 Game Summaries
Week 1 - The veteran didn't look any different than he has for the past few seasons. He scored in the first half on a pivot route breaking inside-out that ended with Gonzalez slipping inside the linebacker dropping to cover on the outside break while Matt Ryan rolled away from the blitz. This was the typical basketball movement where Gonzalez excels with a quarterback willing to target him in a tight area. The Atlanta tight end also made two nice plays in the flats underneath the zone. However, the biggest play was one where the oldest player on the field couldn't make against the youngest: a fourth and goal pass in the end zone. Gonzalez was open long enough for Ryan to hit the tight end over the middle but as the ball arrived, rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro got his fingertips on the pass just before reaching the tight end's hands. This tip altered the trajectory enough for Gonzalez to tip the pass into the air and the Saints made the game-sealing interception.
Week 2 - Gonzalez made a couple of nice plays in this game, including an out for 11 yards on third-and-even during the first drive of the game. he also got a first down with 18 seconds in the first half to set up an Atlanta field gaol. However, middle linebacker James Laurinitis may have effectively neutralized Gonzalez in this game by his lobbying of the referees after one first-half reception that featured the veteran pushing off before the reception. Later in the half, Gonzalez had a leaping reception for an 11-yard gain called back due to a pass interference foul. At that point, the Falcons offensive line and Rams coverage limited Gonzalez's targets.
Week 3 - The tight end had three consecutive catches on the initial drive, all against Miami's linebackers in tight coverage. He beat Phillip Wheeler once and Daniel Ellerbe twice and two of the three were for first downs. He later earned a first down on a diving catch and hit his head on the turf while falling for the first down. He missed a few plays, but returned the next series and there was no concussion protocol instituted at the sideline. His one target in the end zone was in the fourth quarter on a post route, but Matt Ryan overthrew the target while under pressure.
Week 4 - The Falcons did an excellent job of using Roddy White to clear space for Gonzalez underneath on flat and hook routes in the shallow zone. Additionally, White's increased ability to accelerate and earn targets on vertical routes opened the field for Matt Ryan to target Gonzalez on seam routes. Gonzalez made a fine catch up the seam over LB Jerod Mayo in trail coverage and a defensive back outside. Gonzalez scored the first time on a nine-yard rook at the sideline that he turned inside the defensive back and gained another 12 to the end zone. Later, Gonzalez gained 22 on a 1st and 20 seam route with 4:40 left before scoring on the following play. The second touchdown was a great display of defeating the jam and then breaking to the corner. He then earned 10 yards between two defenders with 3:30 left. At this point, the Patriots had enough and double-teamed the tight end at the line of scrimmage as if he were a gunner on punt coverage. This was especially effective in the red zone on the final drive and forced Matt Ryan to look elsewhere. Overall, Gonzalez looked just like he has all year. The difference is that he earned targets he hasn't seen until this week.
Week 5 - Gonzalez riddled the Jets' secondary on short routes against linebackers in tight coverage and intermediate routes between the Cover-2 looks that the Jets employed on certain downs. When Gonzalez caught the ball without a defender draped on him like a blanket, he managed to make the first defender miss with a short burst or intial move. Jets linebacker David Harris often had strong coverage on Gonzalez that would have foiled most tight ends, but the Falcons' future Hall of Famer is so quick with his breaks and reliable against contact that Gonzalez doesn't require any separation from a defender as long as he's facing the quarterback. The Jets did manage to foil Gonzalez in the red zone by borrowing a page from the Patriots' playbook last week and double-teamed the tight end with two, and sometimes three, defenders at the line of scrimmage. This physical style of play forced Matt Ryan to look elsewhere because the Falcons' tight end had to push two defenders five yards down field to even earn consideration or a defensive holding or pass interference call and by the time he got that far down field, Ryan had to release the ball somewhere else. Still, Gonzalez did draw a couple of penalties late in the game that helped the Falcons earn second and third chances in the red zone. The veteran tight end also made a key block in an unbalanced set to spring Jacquizz Rodgers for a third-quarter touchdown off left end and the Jets' attention in the red zone passing plays earned Gonzalez's rookie counterpart Levine Toilolo single coverage on a three-yard score that temporarily gave Atlanta a one-point lead late in the game. Between the 20s, Gonzalez is unstoppable. Inside the 20, opposing defenses would be wise to adopt the double and triple teams at the line of scrimmage until Atlanta can prove it has another reliable weapon in this range of the field.
Week 7 - Atlanta was aggressive with its screen and seam game to running back Jacquizz Rodgers and receiver Harry Douglas. As a result, Gonzalez only saw two targets. The first was a fine catch over Mason Foster on a seam route during the third drive of the game. Gonzalez caught the ball on the move behind the defender and gained 25 yards on the play. In the second half, Gonzalez made multiple defenders miss in the right flat to get inside the Buccaneers' 15 in the early fourth quarter on a dump-off. While it would make sense that with Roddy White and Julio Jones not in the lineup that Tampa Bay would double-team Gonzalez, but it seemed that Atlanta found other ways to attack the Buccaneers' defense with quick plays to Douglas and Rodgers. With Steve Jackson and Roddy White likely to return by month's end, Gonzalez's impending demise might be more dramatically stated than the reality of the situation.
Week 8 - The Falcons' tight end made some impressive plays in this game. He began with a diving third-down reception against Javier Arenas in tight coverage. He also made a third-down grab for a first down on Yeremiah Bell in tight coverage on a flat route in the middle of the second quarter. However, the Cardinals doubled Gonzalez in the red zone and even placed Patrick Peterson on the veteran tight end when Gonzalez was used as the single receiver split outside the formation. Gonzalez was public enemy No.1 for the Cardinals defense and they did a solid job of limiting his effectiveness in key situations. One of the best plays of the week was a seam route that Matt Ryan threw over linebacker Darryl Washington in tight coverage and Gonzalez made a beautiful, twisting reception. However, Washington countered when an even more impressive act of prying the ball loose from Gonzalez's arms while they were still in the air. The one time Gonzalez wasn't double-covered in the red zone, Tyrann Mathieu interfered with the tight end to prevent a catch in the fourth quarter.
Week 9 - The most compelling player on the field for the Falcons' offense was its tight end Gonzalez. The Falcons did a better job finding Gonzalez for impact plays in this contest, but it was far from a perfect execution of its game plan. Gonzalez's first target was a seam route where linebacker Luke Kuechly dropped into the zone and undercut Gonzalez for an interception in the second series of the game. On that play, Gonzalez had three Carolina defenders within a three-yard radius. However, Carolina opted to use defenders other than Kuechly early in the game and the decision was a failure. Gonzalez beat Robert Lester on a hook route to convert a third down in the first quarter, spinning inside the defender for extra yards after the catch. he then earned another first down on a third-down play action pass when paired against linebacker Chase Blackburn. Gonzalez's touchdown in the first half came on a seam route where he worked behind Kuechly, who saw Drew Davis working a crossing route beneath him and reacted to the break and allowed Gonzalez to earn separation. Gonzalez then had a diving catch where he had to reach beyond his back shoulder and literally pull the ball from linebacker Thomas Davis' chest to make the catch on 3rd-and-four in the second quarter. After this productive first half, the Panthers made a more concerted effort to assign Kuechly to the tight end, including a red zone attempt where the linebacker came very close to drawing a pass interference penalty in the end zone. Overall, Gonzalez saw a better quality of targets in the middle of the field in this game and no punt coverage-like double teams in the red zone. Other teams may opt to do this after seeing two of the past three teams do so successfully. But if Roddy White returns to form in the next week and left tackle Sam Baker returns and looks decent, it might be more difficult for opponents to stop Gonzalez.
Week 10 - Gonzalez was limited to three catches in this game. All three were grabs in tight coverage in the middle of the field. One of those plays, a nine-yard gain in the third quarter, forced Gonzalez off the field due to a toe injury. He limped around the sideline during a timeout, had trainers look at it, and then returned to the game. Gonzalez then demonstrated excellent body control and toughness on consecutive targets to extend the ball across the first down marker in tight coverage. However, the combination of limited offensive possessions in the second half, a quality pass rush, and good coverage from the likes of Kam Chancellor forced Matt Ryan to check the ball on even shorter routes than the ones Gonzalez runs.
Week 11 - Gonzalez hurt his toe or ankle once again after his first catch, a quick seam route for 18 yards in the first series. He limped off the field, but returned after missing one play. Even so, Gonzalez limped through the entire game. He caught short flat routes where Ryan showed good anticipation and placement as usual. The only egregious mistake Gonzalez made was a second-quarter play where he worked up to the right sideline to help Matt Ryan who had to avoid three defenders one at a time to clear the pocket to deliver the ball to the tight end. Gonzalez dropped the ball. Gonzalez only had 51 yards on 6 catches, 2 of them in garbage time with Dominique Davis throwing the ball under a generous zone when down 41-13.
Week 12 - The Saints double-teamed Gonzalez early and the tight end's best chance to score was foiled when he tripped on a 2nd and goal play in a tight trips formation. Although, teams are shutting out Gonzalez's red zone opportunities, he's still producing between the 20s despite battling a toe injury. He made a leaping catch at the right sideline for 14 yards on a pass Ryan had to lob. He also got open late in this game on a seam route over Curtis Lofton for 13 yards. However, most of his passes were short check-downs and Atlanta was compelled to use Gonzalez as a pass protector more often than I have seen in recent weeks. Gonzalez was called for holding Cameron Jordan in the second half when the defensive end worked inside the tight end with easy and nearly got to Matt Ryan for his fourth sack of the game. When targeted in the flats, Gonzalez is quick and savvy at making the initial break but once he becomes a runner, the toe injury is limiting some of his movement and he couldn't avoid a defender he would have made miss earlier in the season on an eight-yard gain in the fourth quarter.
Week 13 - If there's a teammate happier than Matt Ryan and Steven Jackson that Roddy White is healthy enough to earn the respect from defenses it's Gonzalez. The tight end earned more single coverage in the red zone than he's seen since the Patriots decided to play punt coverage on him earlier this season and rest of the Falcons' opponents followed suit. White's production forced the Bills to play single coverage and Gonzalez made them pay with slant for a touchdown with the defender practically administering the Heimlich Maneuver during the act of the catch. Gonzalez also made some fine plays in the middle of the field against single coverage. Two plays in particular that made an impact happened late in the game when he made a diving catch on 2nd and 17 on an out at the sideline with his quarterback delivering the ball under pressure. Gonzalez then followed up with a high-pointing grab on 3rd and 10 for 13 yards in the middle of the field. White's production should make Gonzalez a viable TE1 for the fantasy playoffs.
Week 14 - Gonzalez scored on a play-action flat route from an I-formation set at the two-yard line in the first half. He also made a fine catch on a 16-yard seam route in tight coverage late in the fourth quarter. However, Gonzalez and Ryan weren't as successful as they could have been with the rest of their targets. Gonzalez allowed a hook route late in the half that bounced off his hands. There was also a fourth-down route in tight coverage where Ryan threw the ball so far behind Gonzalez that the tight end had to turn into the trailing defender and try to rob the ball from the coverage. Gonzalez succeeded in pulling the ball away from the defender, but juggled the ball multiple times while falling backwards and could not secure this play that would have resulted in a first down and kept a drive alive in the fourth quarter that Atlanta needed to regain the lead. Still, the Falcons had another week of success getting the ball to Roddy White and finding holes for Steven Jackson. The fact that Gonzalez has benefited in the red zone for the second week in a row is a good sign.
Week 15 - Gonzalez had a strong game, nearly scoring twice. His first score was a 13-yard pass in the middle of the field where he ripped free of linebacker London Fletcher's grasp up the seam, caught the ball at the three, and turn outside the nearest defender to get across the goal line. This play was set up by a wonderful grab in tight coverage of a Matt Ryan throw on third down where the quarterback was flushed right, threw the ball behind Gonzalez, and the tight end had to reach past his back shoulder and steal the ball from the defensive back while keeping both feet in bounds. Later in the half, Gonzalez caught a pass under the zone inside the five, turned up field and extended the ball over the goal line, but his knee hit the ground before the ball reached the end zone. Gonzalez was no match for Fletcher, who was the unfortunate player matched against the tight end at various points during the contest. Matt Ryan recognized single coverage from Fletcher during a seam route and targeted Gonzalez in a tight window, drawing a defensive pass interference call from the linebacker because Fletcher had his back to the quarterback the entire time. This put Atlanta in the red zone. Gonzalez also had a 10-yard catch in the third quarter that the officials nullified because Roddy White executed an illegal pick. Although Gonzalez had a good day, Washington double covered the tight end on passes inside the 10. Expect this to happen again next week.
Week 16 - Gonzalez drew a tough assignment against the likes of Navorro Bowman and Patrick Willis - especially Willis who was physical with Gonzalez and delayed a lot of routes in the middle of the field. Even so, Gonzalez made some strong releases against one of the games' top inside linebackers and earned multiple catches in the middle. Gonzalez scored after posting up the linebacker and then working free to the right flat of the end zone to make a catch that cut the 49ers' lead to three yards. Gonzalez says there's no chance he's returning to football unless a team contacts him with a great record at midseason and asks for his services.
Week 17 - The game plan for Atlanta was to find Gonzalez early and often, which they did. They found Gonzalez on stop route for five yards then a 23-yard gain on an intermediate cross behind Luke Kuechly's zone coverage. Gonzalez also had a 19-yard gain behind the nickel back in the mid-second quarter. Gonzalez was not targeted in the red zone. One of the reasons was the multiple sacks Atlanta's line gave up in this part of the field. Gonzalez even gave up one of those sacks when paired one-on-one with Greg Hardy. If Atlanta rebounds in a massive way in 2014 and has a shot at earning home field advantage in the playoffs, don't be surprised if there's talk about Gonzalez joining this team for the stretch run. Otherwise, this game will likely be the great one's last.