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Patriots struggle to explain using Gronk in final play

It's a question that will linger over the New England Patriots for the next several days: Why was Rob Gronkowski on the field for the final play in the Miami Miracle?

The massive tight end is usually part of the Hail Mary defense to utilize his height and bat the ball down. But with the Dolphins having the ball at their own 31-yard line, a Hail Mary was unlikely.

"We knew what was going to go down. They're too far to throw a Hail Mary, so we knew it was going to be a lateral situation," safety Duron Harmon admitted after the 34-33 loss, via ESPN's Mike Reiss.

"I knew it wasn't going to be a Hail Mary. He would have had to throw the ball pretty far to reach the end zone," added safety Devin McCourty.

The reality that the Dolphins would need a lateral miracle to win leads to the question why Gronkowski was on the field instead of a speedier player who could run down a ball carrier.

After several teammates took poor angles to Kenyan Drake, Gronk was hung out to dry, and the tight end tripped at his own 15-yard-line as the Dolphins' running back sped to paydirt for the win.

After the game, Belichick was asked why he had Gronk playing in that specific situation.

"Well, they could throw it deeper," Belichick said. "They could have run the Desperado-type play, which is kind of an in between 20-yard pass, then it turned into a Desperado."

The simpler observation is that the Patriots simply flubbed the situation by having Gronk on the field. Barring an admission of such by the coach, however, expect the question to linger over New England this week.

Gronk, for his part, didn't question the call, but lamented his inability to make a play.

"The way it ended, it sucked," Gronkowski said, via The Athletic. "I've never really been a part of anything like that. I feel like it's going to test our character big time to bounce back from something like that. I've just got to make that tackle."

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