Gronk isn’t dead yet.
Like a battered prized fighter backed into a corner, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski showed a flicker of his former self in a 27-13 win over the Jets on Sunday. Gronk was hardly the dominant player we’ve grown accustomed to seeing through the years, but he made one nice play to help the Jets drop their fifth consecutive game.
Gronk scored his first touchdown since the season opener on a beautiful 34-yard grab in the end zone late in the first quarter. Gronk found an opening before Tom Brady fired a perfect pass for New England’s first score of the day.
Alas, Gronk didn’t roll out a Weekend at Bernie’s touchdown celebration.
He opted for a good ol’ fashioned Gronk spike.
“Gronk did a great job running up the field,” Brady said. “I saw him get by the middle linebacker. I saw the corner squeeze in and I threw it. I didn’t really see the end of the play. I heard the cheering. I wasn’t sure if (the Jets) intercepted it or we made the play. I was so happy Gronk made it. What a great play for him. He’s a great player for us… I think those are certain ones where Gronk is probably the only tight end in the league that can make that play. He played a great game.”
Let’s not go crazy here. Gronk caught three of his seven targets for 56 yards and the score. He managed just one catch for seven yards in the second half. Jamal Adams blanketed Gronkowski for much of the game. Brady targeted Gronk on back-to-back red-zone plays in the first half only to come up empty. Adams, who was on an island with Gronk on the pair of plays, broke up one pass and was in Gronk’s back pocket on the next play that was incomplete.
That being said, Gronk’s presence on the field made an impact even if he wasn’t running away from defenders. Adams went to help Mo Claiborne on Gronk late in the third quarter, which freed up Julian Edelman for a 21-yard touchdown that gave the Patriots a 20-13 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“He’s probably the best tight end to ever suit up,” Edelman said. “Any time he’s on the field, he’s going to attract attention and it helps everyone.”
It’s not surprising that Gronkowski made a couple plays given that he had three weeks to rest up after missing three of the past four games with back and ankle injuries.
He was obviously fresher against the Jets.
“I’ve just been putting in the work the last couple weeks to get back,” Gronkowski said. “I just feel like I can keep on improving week in, week out… It was a lot of hard work to get to where I am. So now I have to keep it going.”
That’s always been the most important question. Sure, he can have momentary flashes. But can his battered body withstand the pounding each week? Can the Patriots trust him against the Vikings in seven days?