While Gronkowski's Buckingham Palace-guard touchdown march –
followed of course by a powerful spike to the grass at Wembley Stadium — might
be the most memorable moment of New England's 45-7 rout of the Rams, it was the
tight end's play that should be making headlines.
On a day when Tom Brady exuded the term precision with each
and every pass he threw, completing 23 of 35 passes for 304 yards and a
foursome of touchdowns, Gronk served as the cultivator of that success.
A nagging hip injury has limited Gronkowski's participation
in practice over the past few weeks, and it has seemed to have an impact out on
the field on gamedays as well. Gronkowski appeared to regain some of his form
with a two-touchdown affair against the Jets last weekend, but Sunday's performance
was his true return to the record-setting Gronk of a year ago.
Gronkowski had his way with the Rams' defense all afternoon, using
his monstrous 6-foot-6, 265-pound frame to power through the St. Louis
secondary. Gronk led the Patriots receiving corps with eight catches for 146
yards and the aforementioned two scores on the day, and maybe more importantly,
he looked fully healthy for the first time in weeks.
Without Aaron Hernandez — who reinjured his ankle during
practice this week — out on the field Sunday, Gronkowski's return to health
couldn't have come at a better time. Granted the offense wasn't nearly as
lethal as it is when both tight ends are healthy, but one healthy tight end is
definitely better than a pair fraught with wear and tear.
So, as the Rams defense continued to search for answers to
the monstrous problem, Brady and Gronk
continued to thrive. And with the return of such success, so too returned the
candid, fun-loving Gronk first to grace the NFL scene last season.
The little kid still stuck inside of that 6-foot-6 behemoth
reemerged in both of his touchdown celebrations invoking some British culture
on the first score. A move Gronk was apparently attempting to impersonate the
Royal guard, or what he referred to as "that little nutcracker dude that's
guarding the house," according to CSNNE's Art Martone.
His second celebration didn't exactly pay homage to the Royal
family, or any family for that matter, but what appeared to be a gyrating shake
with the ball held up high over head was just as enthusiastic. And that's the
sort of passion and excitement that separated Gronk from other tight ends, or
even pass catchers, around football.
The innocent fun, which Gronk seems so accustomed to at this
point, has garnered him a reputation as being "goofy" or
"childish" but it's also what has galvanized the 23-year-old's
success on the field.
That enthusiasm and entertainment is one of a kind, and it
will only continue to incite excitement within fans. But even more so, it will
continue to stimulate the success that has made Gronk the best tight end in
football and offered the Patriots' offense a dimension unseen almost anywhere
else around the league.