FOXBORO -- With 90 seconds remaining and the Patriots ahead by 28, New England's Brian Hoyer dropped back and lofted a pass down the left sideline to the player who is arguably the team's offensive MVP. Rob Gronkowski hauled in the 22-yard reception and crashed to the ground with Bills corner Drayton Florence on top of him and teammate Ryan Mallett over both of them, exulting. The reception propelled Gronk past New Orleans' Jimmy Graham to set the record for receiving yards by a tight end. The record, previously held by Kellen Winslow (1,290), was held for a spell on Sunday by Graham, who finished his game against the Panthers with 1,310. Gronkowski needed five yards to pass Graham before the final reception. Given the disdain Bill Belichick regularly shows for yard-based statistics and the stress he puts on team accomplishments over individual stats, the pursuit of the record was fair evidence that records do indeed matter. "That last play, I had Billy O'Brien, the Patriots offensive coordinator call that because I wasn't sure exactly where Gronkowski was and I thought that he deserved a chance to go up and try and make another play," said Belichick. "He's had a great year and he's worked hard, I thought he deserved that. He made a nice play."The season finale has featured personal accomplishment pursuits in the past. From Doug Flutie's drop kick to Vinny Testaverde's touchdown pass to the team last year making sure BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a chance to get to 1,000 yards, Belichick has done it. I don't think he'd do it when a game was on the line, nor do I think he'd make repeated attempts to chase a record. For instance, if Gronkowski hadn't caught that ball, I'm not sure Belichick would have run another play solely to gain the yards. But there are clearly exceptions to the Belichick rules of stats being meaningless.
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