Tight end Gronkowski makes a difference on offense for Patriots
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Patriots are a different team with a healthy Rob Gronkowski. In this game more than perhaps any other this season, the Patriots needed a Gronk-like performance from their big tight end, and he delivered.
Gronkowski had a career-high nine catches for 143 yards and a touchdown in his best showing since returning from an injured forearm three weeks ago.
“When we're clicking, it's awesome,” Gronkowski said after Sunday's 55-31 victory over the Steelers. “We've just got to keep working hard, keep improving and keep doing things like that. Overall, together as an offense, it was a great team win. It felt good getting more games under me, and I'm feeling good. I'm getting better every week.”
His presence helps open things for everyone around him. Tom Brady threw for 432 yards and four touchdowns, and the Patriots became just the third team in NFL history to have three receivers go over 120 yards with a touchdown catch.
Aaron Dobson (130) and Danny Amendola (122) were the others. Stevan Ridley ran for 115 yards and two scores.
“When he's healthy and on the field, he's tough to stop,” Brady said of Gronkowski. “He's a great run blocker, and what he does for us in the passing game, it's tough to match up. And if the attention goes to Gronk with extra coverage, it opens it up for all the other guys.”
Not coincidentally, the Patriots' fortunes in the red zone have improved, as well. In six games without Gronkowski, the Patriots scored just nine touchdowns in 22 trips inside the red zone. In the three games since his return, New England has scored eight times in 13 red-zone trips.
“Everybody tries to double-team him and do a lot of things to take him out of the game, so it's on a lot of other guys to get the job done,” Amendola said. “I felt like offensively we did some things to get the team moving, so it was a good day.”
Gronkowski, a Woodland Hills graduate, entered the game with just 10 catches for 141 yards for the season but showed early signs that he might be back to his old self. He caught four passes on the Patriots' second possession, three of which resulted in first downs.
On the Patriots' second scoring drive, Gronkowski got into the end zone for the first time since his return, fighting off double coverage and a big hit by safety Troy Polamalu.
When asked if this was the best he felt since coming back to the lineup, Gronkowski said, “I mean, yes. You saw it out there.
“It was clicking a little bit ... and I definitely can keep on improving.”
Bruce Lerch is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Bubble players get last chance to impress Steelers
- Steelers accomplish mission to get younger, faster on defense
- In reworking contract, Steelers WR Brown gets hefty pay raise
- Steelers running back eager to prove he can help bridge gap to Bell
- Steelers trying to get missing defensive pieces on field
- Steelers notebook: New kicker Scobee relishes opportunity
- RB Williams believes he’s making seamless transition to Steelers
- Steelers’ Tomlin disappointed by Bryant suspension
- Bryant suspension opens doors for other Steelers’ receivers
- Steelers WR Bryant’s suspension upheld
- Rossi: Beleaguered Steelers need MVP from Big Ben