CLEVELAND — For a few minutes Sunday afternoon, it looked as if Martellus Bennett’s promising season might be over.
The Patriots tight end, who’d led the team in receiving through the first month of the season, fell to the First Energy Stadium turf in a heap while blocking for LeGarrette Blount during New England’s first offensive drive. Team trainers immediately swarmed him, examining his lower right leg.
In the moment, it was unclear whether Bennett would even be able to walk off the field, never mind finish the game. Then, something clicked in his brain.
“They asked me if I needed a cart,” Bennett said. “And I’m just like, ‘(Expletive), I’m going to look so weak.’ And I’ve been watching (the new Netflix show) ‘Luke Cage’ — he’s the bulletproof brother from Marvel — and I’m like, ‘What would Luke Cage do right now?’ He’d get up and keep bouncing around.”
And that’s exactly what Bennett did.
He sprang to his feet, jogged to the sideline and, after sitting out the final play of the series, returned to the field with a vengeance. Each of the Patriots’ next two drives culminated in touchdown passes from quarterback Tom Brady to Bennett, and the two hooked up for another score early in the third quarter as the Pats blew past the Browns 33-13.
“(Expletive) hurts,” Bennett said after the game, “but you lay down for a second, you feel sorry for yourself, then you think about all the people that are counting on you — on the field, off the field — and you just kind of find a way to suck it up and go out there and play for those guys. And that’s what it’s really about. I didn’t want to let my teammates down.”
Bennett finished the game with six receptions (on eight targets) for 67 yards and three touchdowns. He’s been on the receiving end of four of the seven total touchdown passes Patriots quarterbacks have thrown this season.
“I’ve never had three touchdowns before,” he said. “I’ve scored 60 points in a basketball game before, which I think is kind of equivalent to this.”
In addition to Bennett, Brady also had a full-strength Rob Gronkowski at his disposal in his return from his four-game Deflategate suspension. Gronkowski, who’d played a relatively small role in each of the previous two games, went off against the Browns, catching five passes for 109 yards.
All told, the tight end duo of Bennett and Gronk accounted for 176 of Brady’s 406 passing yards Sunday and all three of his touchdown passes. Wide receiver Chris Hogan (four catches, career-high 114 yards) and running back James White (four catches, 63 yards) also had strong showings in the passing game, and Brady completed throws to seven different receivers.
“I love playing with Gronk,” Bennett said. “I’m very excited for him. We were pretty dynamic with both of us out there (Sunday). He played very well, and I expect him to continue to play like that. That’s what Gronk is, that’s what Gronk does, and that’s why he’s the Gronkinator.”
Thumbnail photo via Scott R. Galvin/USA TODAY Sports Images