Gronkowski sets TE record with three straight 10-plus TD seasons

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Gronkowski sets TE record with three straight 10-plus TD seasons

FOXBORO -- Before leaving Sunday's game last in the fourth quarter with what was later determined to be a broken forearm, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski made NFL history in a 59-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

Gronkowski became the first tight end in NFL history to have three-straight, 10-plus touchdown seasons. He finished the game with seven receptions for a game-high 137 receiving yards, and two touchdowns.

His first touchdown of the game came on New England's opening drive, which resulted in a four-yard touchdown reception by Gronkowski, which tied the game at 7-7.

But it was Gronkowski's second touchdown reception of the game -- a 24-yard catch in the third quarter -- which pushed his 2012 season totals to 10 touchdowns for the third straight season.

"Hes a tough matchup for everybody, not just us," said Colts interim head coach Bruce Arians after the game. "So, yeah, youve got your work cut out for you if it is your job covering him. And Tom Brady knows where to put the ball on him when youve got good coverage. I mean, Antoine Bethea had great coverage on him one time and it was a perfect throw and a good catch. Theres nothing else you can do. Just line up and play the next down."

"He is such a big body and fluid receiver," said Colts safety Tom Zbikowski. "It's not like he is going to burn you with his speed, but he finds a way to get open every time. And they also have a pretty good quarterback that can put it where he needs to put it."

That quarterback was asked after the game why Gronkowski doesn't get double-teamed more often on Sundays.

"Well, they try," said Tom Brady. "I think its definitely something they try. Its just hard because do you want to blitz? Do you not want to blitz? When you're a tight end, you're really in the inside part of the field and you can run basically anywhere you want. Its not like youre an outside receiver where your route has to complement other peoples routes. As a tight end, you can go to the right, left, deep, short; you can really do whatever you want. And the more guys you put on them, the less there are on Wes Welker, the less guys you have rushing, the less on Brandon Lloyd, Julian Edelman. Thats why it's team football."

Gronkowski also became the third Patriots player to record three consecutive 10-plus touchdown seasons, joining Randy Moss and Corey Dillon.

"Rob does a great job for us, blocking, receiving, third down, red area," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick after the game. "Hes a good player."

That's something the Patriots knew well before Sunday's win over the Colts.

Curran: Pats already winning the mind game

Curran: Pats already winning the mind game

FOXBORO -- There’s this book called “The Obstacle is the Way,” written by an author named Ryan Holiday.

Therein, the 29-year-old author explains how many highly successful people use adversity as a springboard. Holiday explains that dwelling on impediments to success -- whether they be personal shortcomings, daily challenges that confront us or just bad luck -- hinders our ability to accept them and move on undeterred . . . which is critical to success.  

It’s a book I first became aware of when reading a feature on John Schneider, the Seahawks GM. Schneider said he was told about the book by Bill Belichick confidante and former Patriots executive Mike Lombardi in 2015.

“[Lombardi] said, 'That's really where you would get a great vibe for what [Belichick] is like and what his philosophy is and how he approaches life and his football culture and all. I went out and purchased it right away, and it was awesome.”

The book came to mind last week when Mike Tomlin, in his postgame address to his team, lamented that the Patriots were “a day-and-a-half” ahead of Pittsburgh in prep time and that the Steelers wouldn’t be back in Pennsylvania until 4 a.m.

Already there was that “I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’ . . . ” woe-is-me approach that gave not just Tomlin an issue to fixate upon, but his players as well. Kind of like the idle intimation Tomlin made after the 2015 opener that the Steelers headsets gave them issues.

Of course, by Monday morning, the Steelers had more to deal with, as Antonio Brown broadcast live 17 minutes of locker-room footage. The Steelers fixated on that through Wednesday. Then the flu descended on their locker room and reportedly affected 15 players. Early Sunday morning, the Steelers had the fire alarm pulled at their hotel and -- even though they didn’t evacuate -- it’s shaping up as something the Steelers will be muttering about for weeks.

Or even years. They still think they got jobbed out of a Super Bowl by “Spygate” even though the 2001 Patriots beat them because of two special-teams touchdowns more than anything having to do with alleged taped signals.

Contrast that with the Patriots. After they sat on the tarmac in Providence for three hours on New Year’s Eve waiting to take off for the finale in Miami, Tom Brady talked about the opportunity the delay afforded the team to catch up on rest or preparation.

It’s just the way the Patriots have been hard-wired since Belichick took over. Screw the mottos, like “Do Your Job” or the hokey “One More”. (Can someone tell me that if “One More” occurs, what's next year’s saying? “One More One More?”) If there’s been a mantra for success that underpins everything the Patriots have been about it would be: “It is what it is.”

Quarterbacks coach passes away? (Dick Rehbein in 2001.) Very sad. But it is what it is. Starting quarterback has artery sheared? (Drew Bledsoe in 2001.) Is what it is. A league-sponsored witch hunt is carried out prior to the Super Bowl with the starting quarterback in the crosshairs? (Deflategate/Tom Brady in 2015.) It is what it is. That quarterback’s ultimately yanked off the field for four games? (Brady's suspension, 2016.) Is what it is.

Bill Parcells once said, “If you give a team an excuse they will take it every time.”

So it was with that in mind when the Patriots in 2003 boarded a plane for Miami and Belichick told them they were going down there to win and that he “didn’t want to hear about the heat or the plane ride or the f****** orange juice.” The Patriots got the point and extracted a 19-13 overtime win -- the first time they’d won there under Belichick.

The Patriots have had plenty of fire alarms pulled on them over the years -- three times during their week in Indy prior to Super Bowl 46, at least once in Arizona prior to SB49 -- and never did those cause the outcry that this minor disturbance caused.

That has to do with the mythology around the Patriots and Belichick that’s grown and festered for a decade-and-a-half.  The rest of the paranoid NFL imagines a KGB-style intelligence agency and wound up more concerned with the Patriots than readying a great team tto unseat them. Which is handy when explaining to your owner why the Patriots routinely win at the rate that they do. They cheat. What better way to cover your ass?

It can work for a while, right Ryan Grigson?

Another pro sports dynasty that enjoyed the kind of long-term dominance New England's in the midst of also won a lot of games because opponents got spooked by dead spots in the floor, hot locker rooms and cold showers in the original Boston Garden.

In other words, this mental tenderness exhibited by teams that choose to rage at the unfairness of it all rather than laugh and soldier on is nothing new.

Today, the ill-feeling, sleep-deprived, Steelers -- who had to cram their preparation around the distraction caused by a great player -- will play their most important game in six years.

God willing, the headsets work.