Tight end Rob Gronkowski has had a phenomenal sophomore campaign for the New England Patriots. He has been one of Tom Brady’s most reliable targets, and has solid blocking skills to complete the tight end package. Gronk has been a pass-catching, tackle-breaking machine, and in doing so, he has earned a Pro Bowl berth and is now in possession of two single-season tight end records. Earlier this season, Gronkowski broke the touchdown receptions record for tight ends previously held by the 49ers’ Vernon Davis and the Chargers’ Antonio Gates. Earlier today against Buffalo, he added two more to his single-season touchdown receptions record, ending the regular season with 17 touchdown receptions.
Gronkowski also set a new record today for receiving yards by a tight end in one season, with a little help from Bill Belichick.
Both Gronkowski and the Saints’ Jimmy Graham eclipsed the mark set by former Chargers tight end Kellen Winslow in 1980 with 1,290 receiving yards. Graham and Gronkowski had a back-and-forth going on throughout the game, each passing each other’s yardage total. Graham ended his game against the Panthers with 1,310 yards on the season and was in first place. However, the Pats were still playing and Bill Belichick was aware that Gronk had a chance at the record, so he asked offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien to call a play that would give Gronk a shot.
“That last play, I had [offensive coordinator] Billy [O'Brien] call that because I wasn’t sure exactly where he was and I thought he deserved a chance to go up and try to make another play,” Belichick said after the game. “He’s had a great year, he’s worked hard, and I thought he deserved that.”
With Brian Hoyer in at quarterback on the final drive of the game, the Pats gave Gronk a shot. #87 delivered, making a 22-yard catch and setting the record with 1,327 total receiving yards on the season. After the game, Gronk was appreciative of the opportunity.
“It’s unbelievable. It’s surreal that they even let me get that opportunity,” Gronk said. “It’s cool that they’d even let me go out there. We could have just kneed the ball, we put [backup quarterback Brian] Hoyer in the game, and he threw a nice pass, and I just went up and made a play. That’s what is so great about being here with your teammates, with the coaches, everyone is so unselfish that it’s crazy. I thanked them after the game letting me have a chance like that. It never would have been done without my teammates, without Aaron [Hernandez], without the QBs, without the coaches.”
It’s been an amazing season for Rob Gronkowski, and with the All-Pro lists yet to be released, he will likely be receiving at least one more individual honor before the book on this NFL season is closed.