X-factor: Can the Falcons stop tight end Rob Gronkowski?

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 01: Charles Clay #85 of the Buffalo Bills catches a pass against Duke Riley #42 of the Atlanta Falcons during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 1, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C.  Cox/Getty Images)
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ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 01: Charles Clay #85 of the Buffalo Bills catches a pass against Duke Riley #42 of the Atlanta Falcons during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 1, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Credit: Kevin C. Cox

Credit: Kevin C. Cox

New England tight end Rob Gronkowski will be the X-factor against the Falcons on Sunday.

The Falcons have spent a lot of resources on players who they hoped could help cover tight ends better.

The Falcons were doing a good job against tight ends until Buffalo’s Charles Clay broke loose for 112 yards on five catches, including a 44-yard pass play, on Oct. 1. They held Green Bay’s Martellus Bennett to four catches for 47 yards in the win over the Packers on Sept. 17.

Strong safety Keanu Neal, strongside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell and weakside linebacker Duke Riley will face their stiffest challenge of the season when they face New England tight end Rob Gronkowski, the four-time Pro Bowler.

Gronkowski, who didn’t play against the Falcons in Super Bowl LI, has 26 catches for 401 yards and four touchdowns.

“Gronk is a different talent,” free safety Ricardo Allen said.

Gronk has made a habit of making catches while in tight coverage.

“You’ve got to make him compete all the way to the ground,” Allen said. “Gronk’s one of those players you enjoy the challenge because he’s one of the best in our league for a reason. You’re going to miss some pass breakups, and he’s going to catch some balls, but you’ve got to try to make the most (plays) you can.”

Neal is ready for the challenge and noted that Gronkowski is a strong runner after the catch.

“He’s a bigger guy, but we’ve just got to wrap up,” Neal said. “Get a good hit on him and wrap up and drive your feet and we’ll be fine.”

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