Gronk is back. More importantly, his trademark touchdown spike is back, and it was as explosive as ever.
Tom Brady found Rob Gronkowski in the middle of the field for a 34-yard Gronk TD special with 1:11 left in the first quarter of the Patriots’ 27-13 win over the Jets on Sunday at MetLife Stadium as the Patriots fans in the crowd let out a roar. That play tied the game at 7-7.
The Jets were in two-deep coverage and Gronk beat linebacker Avery Williamson down the middle as Morris Claiborne was late to help. Todd Bowles helped, too, by declining a penalty and giving Brady and Gronk a second chance to hook up.
It was Gronk’s first touchdown since Week 1 as he has been hampered by ankle and back injuries. He returned to the lineup for the first time in 27 days.
After Gronkowski was knocked down in the end zone, he jumped up and threw down his Thor-like spike of the football right on the Jets logo.
“It was cool to see Gronk back,’’ Patriots running back James White said. “He’s a difference-maker. He’s a guy who can make tough catches and block in the running game. It’s always a big help.’’
This was a classic trust touchdown between Brady and Gronkowski.
“Absolutely,’’ Brady said. “I think there are certain ones where Gronk is probably the only tight end in the league that can make that play. He played a great game.’’
After the game Gronk first noted how the podium set up in the visiting team’s interview room was a bit shaky as the 6-foot-6, 268-pounder gave it a wiggle.
The Jets defense was shaky too.
“It was just good to be back out there with the guys,’’ Gronkowski said. “Just grinding and coming out here in New York and just putting a win together, a solid team win together. It’s a good day.”
Jets report card: Effort unable to mask Todd Bowles' coaching flaws
Grades from the Jets’ 27-13 loss the Patriots on Sunday….
This was just the start, said Gronk, who caught three passes and was targeted seven times as Brady spread the offense around, finding eight different receivers. “Now I feel I can keep improving week in and week out and do what I have to do to help the team. It was a lot of hard work to get back to where I am, so now I just have to keep it going.”
Gronk wasn’t the only Patriots receiver who would not be denied the end zone. Julian Edelman scored on a 21-yard pass from Brady with 1:52 remaining in the third quarter to put the Patriots on top 20-13.
Edelman fought his way through the Jets for the final few yards for the TD, with Gronk helping to clear the way to earn Gronk’s praise.
“When he has those couple extra yards to get, especially when he’s getting towards the end zone, he’s going to give it his all to get into that end zone,’’ Gronkowski said. “He gives it all to this game to this team whenever he’s out there.’’
Same can be said for TD-spiking Gronk.