The New England Patriots offense has not been what it used to be and part of the reason for that is the health of starting tight end Rob Gronkowski. When Gronkowski is healthy there are few men on the field that can stop him from imposing his will. Gronkowski has missed 17 games over the last two seasons due to injuries however. In last week’s game against the Bengals, the Patriots’ key play maker, Gronkowski appeared to play like his old self once again.
Since Gronkowski, or ‘Gronk’ as his teammates and fans call him, entered the league no tight end has more touchdown passes. In 2011, just his second season in the league, he brought in an NFL record 17 touchdown receptions. One of the reasons he is so good at finding pay dirt is his imposing size. At 6’6 265 pounds, very few people can take him down alone and even fewer want to get hit by him.
At only 25 years old, he has already missed significant playing time due to various injuries. He broke his forearm on an extra point attempt two seasons ago. Many question why Bill Bilicheck had him out on the field for an extra point attempt in the first place. Last season, after missing much of the start of the season due to the injury, he tore his ACL on a vicious hit against the Cleveland Browns and missed the remainder of the season.
The Patriots offense as a whole has been lackluster to say the least this season, as they were ranked outside the top 20 in all major categories through the first four games. Coming off a huge loss on national TV, the team needed a big spark. The Patriots were firing on all cylinders, and Gronkowski was playing like his old self once again.
When Gronkowski entered the league, his very first game was against the Bengals. In that game he caught one pass for one yard and a touchdown. In week five, when the team needed desperately to get back on track, they turned to him yet again. Quarterback Tom Brady and Gronkowski connected six times for 100 yards and a touchdown pass. The Patriots were playing with an energy fans had not seen all year. After one touchdown Brady and wide receiver Julian Edelman were seen tossing the ball back and forth until Brady finally spiked the ball to the ground in excitement.
In week six the Patriots take on their division rival Buffalo Bills on the road in Buffalo. In his career Brady is 22-2 against the Bills, and coming off five straight wins in head to head match ups. The Bills are tied for the lead in the division as both teams have a 3-2 record.
The Bills have sat their young quarterback EJ Manual in favor of veteran Kyle Orton. The Bills and the Patriots are both coming off big week five wins as the Bills beat the Detroit Lions in Detroit. In week six fans will see if the Patriots offense is really back or if last week was just a flash in the pan. One thing that will be a big factor in the offensive play is if Patriots is star tight end Gronkowski has really found his old self and can be dominant once again.
Commentary by Andy Lapic
Photo by Angie Six –Flickr License