Gronkowski helps open up Patriots pass game

Gronkowski helps open up Patriots pass game
November 3, 2013, 11:00 pm
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FOXBORO -- Rob Gronkowski can't be the cure-all for the Patriots offense. If that was the case, the Patriots would have won in his debut two weeks ago against the Jets. And Tom Brady likely would have had more than 116 yards passing in last week's win over the Dolphins.

He sure does help, though, doesn't he?

The 6-foot-6 behemoth tight end -- who looks part Cyborg on the field with a massive black pad covering his surgically-repaired left arm -- had a career-high nine catches for 143 yards and one touchdown in New England's impressive 55-31 win over the Steelers.

"When we're clicking, we're clicking and it's awesome," Gronkowski said. "We've just got to keep working hard, keep improving, and keep doing things like that. It takes a lot of work. Overall, together as an offense, it was a great team win. We were out there in a rhythm, but there's a lot to improve on. We can get better as a whole. It felt good getting more games under me, and I'm feeling good. Better every week."

But it was what Gronkowski did for his teammates that may have had the most significant impact on the game. By attracting defenders and opening up throwing lanes with his mere presence, he helped Tom Brady have a record-setting day with 432 yards passing and four touchdowns.

Six receivers in all caught passes for the Patriots and two of them -- rookie receiver Aaron Dobson (130) and Danny Amendola (120) -- had over 100 yards receiving.

"When Gronk plays like that and can produce like that," Brady said, "and Danny does that, and Aaron does that, and the backs do that, and the line blocks, it's a good way to play football."

With Gronkowski available, it's an easier way to play football, too, it seems.

"When he's healthy and on the field, he's tough to stop," Brady said. "He's a great run blocker and what he does for us in the passing game, it's tough to match up. And if the attention goes to Gronk with extra coverage, it opens it up for all the other guys. He's a big presence on our team, and when he's out there for every snap, it's going to be even better."

Amendola found himself absurdly wide open in the Steelers secondary on two separate occasions. Without having seen film on the play, Amendola admitted Gronkowski may have had something to do with that.

"Gronk is a great player," Amendola said. "Everybody tries to double-team him and do a lot of things to try to take him out of the game, so it's on a lot of other guys to get the job done and, you know, I felt like offensively, we did some things to get the team moving so it was a good day."

Of course the essence of Gronk isn't all about what he does for his teammates. His catches were something to behold.

On his touchdown in the second quarter, he adjusted to a back-shoulder throw from Brady, secured it to his body and didn't let go -- even after Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu leveled him up high as he crossed the goal line, earning the long-haired Steeler a personal foul penalty.

Gronkowski caught out-routes. He caught crossing routes. He dragged Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor about five yards as Taylor clung to his ankle for dear life on a pass play in the first quarter.

"As you guys can see," Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount said, "he brings a whole lot to the table."

Gronkowski isn't an offensive panacea. No one player can be. But he sure does help, doesn't he?