New England Patriots fans have been buzzing the whole week about the remarkable energy and enthusiasm tight end Rob Gronkowski brought back to the team with him after he had served out his one-week NFL suspension. Sunday's AFC matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers saw Gronkowski at his brilliant best, where he managed to turn in what might arguably be the finest game of his eight-year career.
Gronkowski provided the steam that drove the Patriots to a 27-24 victory, attaining a career-topping 168 yards on nine catches, in addition to a two-point conversion. He saved the best for last, however, as the team mustered a successful game-winning push in the fourth quarter with Gronkowski making receptions of 26, 26, and 17 yards followed up with a two-point conversion. The win was sealed in spectacular fashion, as the six-foot-seven-inch Gronkowski somehow managed to collect the ball right off the top of his shoes for one of those late receptions. leaving his teammates in awe.
"Gronk is the Greatest Of All Time!" fellow tight-end Dwayne Allen repeatedly proclaimed at the postgame locker room, where the spirits were definitely high. According to special-teams captain Matthew Slater, Gronski's earlier suspension might have played a role in driving his superb performance. In a conversation they had before the game, Slater reports that Gronski expressed the wish to lift the team's morale by having a great game, and he undoubtedly accomplished that. The Patriots' odds for next game are definitely looking better if they will be able to maintain the tempo.
Gronkowski was definitely feeling good on the night, treating fans to a bit of flexing after one of the late catches. When Gronkowski is feeling good out on the field, it seems as though quarterback Tom Brady knows exactly how to handle him - just throw the ball his way, no matter what the defensive line is up to. A 50-50 pass to Gronkowski on a good day might be more like a 95-5 ball in his favor. Dion Lewis added onto the praises being sung in Gronkowski's favor, stating that he wasn't surprised, knowing Gronkowski would be 'hungry' after being locked out of play during the suspension.
On the back of the stellar performance, the Patriots recorded a healthy 11-3 standing, in addition to sealing up the AFC East competition. They positioned themselves well to attain home-field advantage when they line up against the Steelers (11-3) in the AFC Playoffs. The games the Patriots have in hand, against the Jets and the Bills, shouldn't be too much of a problem for them at this rate.
The Patriots might have looked a little bit shaky during Sunday's game, but they managed to navigate the ups and downs to come through in a big way during the final, decisive stretch of the game. Gronkowski's performance no doubt gave the team the impetus to reach out and grab the win. Let's look on and see if the pace keeps up. It might be a whole lot easier said than done, but the Patriots look like they're definitely going to give it a shot.