Rob Gronkowski seems to be back to his old self. (USA TODAY Images)
When Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski went down last year against Cleveland with a knee injury, it was difficult to wonder how it would affect him over the long-term.
Would he still be the same guy? Would he still be as quick and would his athleticism be affected? Would he still be able to create the same separation and would he be able to play with the same intensity that made him such a big part of the offense?
They were all valid questions coming off of a torn ACL and MCL. However, one season later, the answer is pretty obvious.
He’s back, and arguably even better.
The 25-year old tight end appears to be as explosive as ever after¬†putting up quite a performance during the Patriots 51-23 win over the Chicago Bears at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.
Gronkowski seems to be getting his swagger back after a slow start this season.
(USA TODAY Images)
During the victory Gronkowski finished with 9 catches for 149 yards, including 3 touchdowns. ¬†It was Gronkowski’s second career three touchdown game, and he and Tom Brady finished the day increasing their total to 48 career touchdown connections, which is second all time for quarterback/tight end tandems, trailing only Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who have 69 career touchdown connections.
Seeing him back and playing at a high level has certainly been encouraging, especially considering how last season ended for him. Watching him get carted off the field in 2013 was difficult to watch, especially after how tentative he had been with his return to begin with given the complications he battled while recovering from fracturing his forearm the season before.
Following the reports of the severity of his knee injury, the next question was whether or not he would be even close to the same player when he returned. ¬†Former Patriots tight end Jake Ballard was a glaring reminder of a player who was explosive and had a promising career that was taken away after a knee injury. He was never the same and fans in New England saw him seemingly struggle to trust the knee during last year’s training camp. He was ultimately cut, and he eventually called it quits and said he “never felt the same”.
It was hard not to wonder if that might happen to Gronkowski but fortunately, that hasn’t been the case. ¬†Gronkowski got off to a slow start this season after he and Brady struggled to connect early on, but ever since the Monday night debacle against Kansas City, the two appear to be much more in sync. ¬†Through the first four weeks Gronkowski caught just 13 passes for 147 yards and three touchdowns. ¬†Since then he’s caught 27 passes for 411 yards and four touchdowns, but the bigger story is the fact the Patriots’ offense hasn’t scored fewer than 27 points over that span and the team is 4-0.
Sunday against the Bears the thing that was impressive was the fact Brady was a perfect 9-of-9 targeting Gronkowski, and he was a big part of their success moving the football. The Patriots were 7-of-11 on third down Sunday, with Gronkowski¬†accounting for four conversions, including a touchdown.
‚ÄúWe know that the completion percentage, and to get a first down from that, is very low,” Gronkowski told reporters after the game. “But you just have to go out there and execute and run the route just like it‚Äôs any other play. [You‚Äôve] got to get open and Tom [Brady] made some great throws. Just had to catch the ball and get the first down.‚ÄĚ
He’s looked great and the fact he’s beginning to settle in is certainly a terrific sign for a team that many had written off a few weeks ago. ¬†With Denver looming next weekend it will be a big challenge, but they seem to be heading into this match-up at the right time considering how well the offense is playing. ¬†However, there’s no question that it starts with Gronkowski and for now it appears he’s starting to resemble his old self.
‚ÄúIt was a good day overall for the team,” said Gronkowski. “Everyone was executing well. The offense was clicking. The defense was playing very well. Overall a great day, a great win, and it‚Äôs always good to get a win at home.‚ÄĚ