Patriots tight ends pile up accolades

Patriots tight ends pile up accolades
January 2, 2012, 12:56 am
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FOXBORO -- The Patriots never brag about individual achievements. But as their regular season concluded with a 49-21 win over the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, those individual achievements continued to pile up.

And this time, they actually admitted that was the purpose -- for one of those personal achievements, at least.

Rob Gronkowski set an NFL record for single-season receiving yards by a tight end on Sunday. He finished the season with 1,327 receiving yards, surpassing San Diego's Kellen Winslow's 1980 record of 1,290. New Orleans' Jimmy Graham also broke Winslow's record with 97 receiving yards on Sunday, but when the Patriots got the ball back with 1:30 left in the game -- thanks to an Antwaun Molden interception -- backup quarterback Brian Hoyer found Gronkowski down the left sideline for a 22-yard pass on the first play of the drive.

The goal was to have him surpass Graham, Belichick admitted. Gronkowski appreciated the nod.

It means a lot, man, that theyre willing to do that when we could've taken a knee and just make sure no one gets hurt," said Gronkowski. "Its just an honor to play here. Thats why I love playing here, great teammates, great coaches, and everyones just a team here and nothing would get accomplished here without everyone here -- all the veterans and everything.

"Everyones just great teammates. All the praises to my teammates and everything and the coaches definitely and playing with Aaron Hernandez beside me, too. He balled out today and its great having him. He didnt play the last time against Buffalo and that just shows how big of a difference he is coming back and playing against them.

Gronkowski finished the game with eight receptions for 108 yards and two touchdowns. But he wasn't even the tight end with the most reception yards on his team. That distinction went to Hernandez, who finished the game with seven receptions for 138 yards and a touchdown.

With the big game for each, both Gronkowski and Hernandez have now combined for the most single-season receptions by a tight end duo in NFL history.

"Our offense, we really never get worried," said Hernandez. "We don't care if we're down 30 points. We feel like we can come back. And like you've seen in the past, for four or five weeks, we've been down in the beginning, and then came back.

"We know that we're going to put up about 30 points, as soon as our offense starts clicking. Whether we start in the third quarter, fourth quarter, we know how to put points on the board.

"How could you panic? You got Tom Brady, Deion Branch, Chad Ochocinco, Gronkowski the best tight end in the game, me, Wes Welker," added Hernandez. "You've got a whole bunch of people that can make plays. How can you get nervous? Tom Brady's going to put you in the right play and make a great pass. And we've got a lot of people that can get open."