FOXBORO, Mass. — “Staying hydrated” doesn’t seem like much of an issue for Rob Gronkowski during the offseason, but it’s all that kept him from a career game Sunday.
The tight end left the New England Patriots’ 51-23 win over the Chicago Bears with 12 minutes remaining in the third quarter because of dehydration. He stayed in the locker room for the rest of the game, though he later insisted that he could have (and wanted to) return to the game if it was necessary.
“I’ve just got to keep on drinking,” Gronkowski said in the Patriots’ locker room.
Yup. Just keep on drinking.
Gronkowski finished with nine receptions for 149 yards and three touchdowns through two quarters and change, and it’s hard to imagine how inflated those stats would have become if he had remembered to consume some more water.
The performance — which included a 46-yard touchdown in which Gronkowski picked up 34 yards after the catch, broke two tackles and dove into the end zone with Bears cornerback Al Louis-Jean on his back (!) — elicited some high praise from his teammates.
“Man, if you watch me, I’m just standing 20 yards behind him just like, turning my body ‘Oh, oh, oh, and he made it? He about to dive?’ ” wide receiver Brandon LaFell said. “I was a fan for six whole seconds. I love it.”
Gronkowski was uncoverable Sunday, and he caught all nine passes thrown to him by quarterback Tom Brady. Offseason knee surgery seems like eons ago now, with the tight end on pace for 80 catches, 1,116 yards and 14 touchdowns. (If he can stay healthy.)
“That dude, he’s a beast, man,” LaFell said. “You don’t get too many people with that size, that speed that can do the things he does. As long as he’s healthy, pssh, ain’t no tight end in the league I think is better than Gronk.”
Brady and the Patriots’ offense have flourished for the past two seasons with a healthy Gronkowski and struggled when he’s been out with an injury or when he regains his footing after surgeries. With Gronk at full health, the Patriots are Super Bowl contenders, and without him, they might be just another team.
“He’s a tough matchup,” Brady said. “He’s big, fast, strong, and when he plays like beast mode, he’s tough to stop.”
It might have been a blessing in disguise for Gronkowski to have left the game because of dehydration. Gronkowski is needed down the stretch run, not in blowout games over non-conference opponents.
Seeing Gronkowski break 200 yards or score four touchdowns would have been fun, but he’s needed for the playoffs, when he can make some of the best teams in the NFL look foolish as they fail to bring down the 6-foot-6, 265-pound behemoth.
“He’s a man amongst boys,” cornerback Darrelle Revis said. “He’s a monster out there.”
Photo via Elise Amendola/Associated Press
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