FOXBORO -- Maybe he should have spiked it, after all.
Instead, after his third-quarter touchdown, Rob Gronkowski held onto the ball for dear life. That one was going straight to his personal trophy case after a two-yard score appeared to have given Gronkowski his 14th touchdown reception of the season -- the most receiving touchdowns in a single season for any tight end in the history of the game.
Minutes later, that touchdown -- which was Gronkowski's third of the day -- was ruled to be a lateral, turning it into a rushing touchdown and leaving Gronkowski tied for the single-season tight-end reception record with Vernon Davis and Antonio Gates at 13.
"My first rushing touchdown ever, that's cool," said Gronkowski after New England's 31-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
It gave the Patriots a 31-3 lead with 4:13 left in the third quarter. It just didn't give Gronkowski a new reception record he thought he set. And he didn't find out until he got back to the locker room.
"They told me right after the game," said Gronkowski. "So it's whatever. Numbers aren't really important. Records aren't really important. The thing that's most important anyways is getting the victory, which we did."
On second-and-goal from the Colts 2-yard line, Brady quickly dumped the ball off to his right, where Gronkowski caught the pass and ran it into the end zone.
Brady didn't realize it was turned into a rushing touchdown until he was informed by the media during his postgame press conference.
"That's okay," said Brady. "I'm glad we scored. That was a good play, good blocking. They blocked well for him on that play. That was great."
"It must have been close," added Brady. "I thought it was a forward pass. I threw it."
Gronkowski finished the game with five receptions for 64 yards,. And while he doesn't hold the receptions record yet, his 14 total touchdowns on the season (13 receiving and one rushing) give him the highest number of combined touchdowns by a tight end in NFL history.
So, technically, the ball he refused to spike still has historic value.
"I thought it was the record-breaking receiving one, so I wanted to keep it," said Gronkowski, whose signature touchdown celebration is an end-zone spike. "But, I wish I spiked it now.
"I guess I get to keep my first rushing touchdown ball ever, so that's pretty cool, too."
Perhaps if the Patriots had known during the game that Gronkowski's third touchdown was ruled a rushing touchdown, they would have been more determined to find him the ball in the end zone one more time, in the fourth quarter.
But afterwards, it was the same old Patriots. The only number they say they cared about was their ninth win of the season.
"I was really trying to be concerned about beating the Colts," said Bill Belichick when asked if he knew about Gronkowski being close to the record. "I wasn't really concerned about individual stats. I think I've said that many, many times. This game isn't about individual stats. It's about team wins."
Gronkowski agreed with his coach.
"Records mean really nothing, at the end of the day," said Gronkowski. "The only thing that really matters is the whole team, and getting the victory that week."