Patriots Trample the Chargers to Reach 8th-Consecutive AFC Championship Game, Gronk Proves He's 'One of the Most Dominant Blocking TEs in the League'
Posted by: Gronkowski
And we’re on the AFC Championships – again!
The Patriots 41-28 victory over the visiting Los Angeles Chargers Sunday was the definition of a team effort with players in every position pulling their weight to secure another matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs.
While rookie show pony Sony Michel shone in his first playoff game, carrying 24 times for 129 yards for three touchdowns, Gronk was a warhorse throughout acting as everything from a tight end to a blocker.
One of his most spectacular moves was coming to the aid of Rex Burkhead, clearing the path for him score a touchdown in the second quarter after – wait for it – an 87-yard play. And yes, he jumped in to help celebrate too.
Described as a “football unicorn” by the Boston Globe, Gronk stiff-armed cornerback Michael Davis, bowled over safety Rayshawn Jenkins and fought off safety Adrian Phillips.
Gronk’s phenomenal performance was far from unnoticed, including by Tom Brady.
“He’s a great blocker,” Brady said after the game. “I think that’s something that goes maybe a little under the radar with his skill set, but he’s one of the most dominant blocking tight ends in the league.
“Again, he’s a threat when he catches it. Just did such a great job there to start the third quarter. He’s a threat any time he’s out there.… it was great and we need everybody. We need all of our best players. There's four teams left, or five right now, four soon. It's going to take our best.”
Former Pats tight end Martellus Bennett marveled at ex-teammate’s flexibility. “Hasn't made a catch but has impacted the game in a big way by blocking,” he tweeted. “If most of your favorite TEs aren't catching the ball they don't impact the game at all. To be able to contribute in all phases of the game is rare for the TE position this days.”
In doing his job for Robert Kraft’s team, Big Rob also had a total blast, he told reporters after the statement win. “That was a real fun game out there, just the way we were executing,” he said.“Whatever coaches call, whatever plays we call, we practice all week. Blocking, receiving, no matter what is, whatever play is called, just got to go out there and do your job. We had a lot of run action, running plays and just got to do your best job at it. It was a great overall offensive unit that we went out there and just put plays together and put up points.
“When you do get that, when you get a lot of defensive backs out there, you’ve got to run the ball. You’ve got to put your hand down and make yards the old way, the old-fashioned way, and that’s by running the ball. We did a lot of that. We also had a great job executing in the pass game. It opened up a lot of play-actions, a lot of stuff like that, so just being able to run the ball, have four touchdowns – I think Sony had three. He did a great job. Everyone, the offensive line, we all did a great job overall together.
“Just overall, we just kept executing, we just kept grinding, we kept pounding the ball and we had to do what we had to do, and that’s what you want to do every time you touch the ball. You want to score.”
When asked about looking towards the future, Gronk gave a textbook Belichickian response. “I’m all-in right now. We’ve got the Kansas City Chiefs now. It’s going to be another week of preparation, and I haven’t thought about anything like that, so just got to go all-in, keep our focus and keep on doing what we’ve got to do, and I’ve got to keep on doing what I’ve got to do to help this team out to win next week.”
But he did admit that he had “get one night to enjoy the win” … with a little bit of help from his friends.
As for Belichick, even he was impressed with the team cohesion. “ A great job by our team today. I couldn’t be prouder of the effort from the coaching staff, players,” he said in the post-game press conference. “I thought our team played well and made plays in every area and played with a lot of energy, a lot of effort. We got good performances from every area. I'd have to go back and look at the film, but obviously we did a lot of good things in all three phases and all of the guys that contributed out there were a part of it.”
Brady now heads into his 39thplayoff game and the Pats eighth-consecutive AFC Championship - in fact the last time they didn’tmake it to the final four was in Gronk’s rookie season in 2010, when they were felled by the Jets in the divisional round.
But unlike last year against the Jags, they’ll be on the road at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City against the QB darling of the 2018 season, Patrick Mahomes. Will age and experience rule over fresh young firepower? We’ll know by bedtime Sunday night.
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