FOXBORO, Mass. — Rob Gronkowski knows how defenses have to play him, and he’s ready for whatever form of tackling the Denver Broncos use to take him down in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game.
The New England Patriots tight end was asked Thursday about the Broncos saying earlier in the week that the best way to tackle him is going low. But Gronk is used to that because it’s something opposing players have done his entire life.
“It’s part of the game. I’ve been seeing it all year, seeing it my whole career,” Gronkowski said. “Just got to get low, get my shoulder down and protect the ball. Just protect myself in any way when I know a guy is coming and I know there’s not a chance to make that many yards, possibly just go down on that play.
“But if you can make a play, you know, get more yards — but at the same time, you just have to watch out, get your pads down. It’s football, so you got to be ready for contact at all times.”
Gronkowski was injured against the Broncos in Week 12. A low, but clean tackle from Broncos safety Darian Stewart with 2:49 left in regulation injured Gronk’s right knee and forced him to leave the field on a cart. The All-Pro tight end had to miss the following week’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
“It’s just part of the game, they’re not doing anything illegal out there,” Gronkowski said of the Broncos. “It’s just part of the game. Just got to be aware of it, maybe just have to step up my game a little bit. Maybe throw a juke, I don’t know how many jukes I got, but just got to be aware for it. It’s football, and it’s just part of the game.”
Gronk arguably is New England’s offensive MVP, and not having him in the 2013 AFC title game against Denver really limited what quarterback Tom Brady and the team’s passing attack accomplished.
“Yeah, a couple years ago that was a big challenge to go in there and beat them,” Brady said. “They were on fire that year, and we just got off to a slow start that game. We just played from behind the entire game. (We) made a couple of plays at the end, but it really wasn?t that close. We?ve got to get off to a much better start this week.”
Gronkowski likely will play a huge role in that start. He’s played quite well against the Broncos since quarterback Peyton Manning signed with Denver before the 2013 campaign.
- Week 12, 2015: 6 Rec, 10 Targets 88 Yards, 1 TD
- Week 9, 2014: 9 Rec, 10 Targets, 105 Yards, 1 TD
- Week 12, 2013: 7 Rec, 10 Targets, 90 Yards, 1 TD
Denver already is a tough place to play without Gronkowski, and the Patriots are 1-5 in their last six games in the Mile High City. They need a fourth straight quality performance from Gronk to make a second consecutive Super Bowl appearance.
“Just playing on the road in the NFL is always a difficult task,” Gronkowski said. “But we’re going on the road into Denver. Their fans are going to be loud, they’re going to be ready, and it’s the Denver Broncos. They’re a very solid team, very, very solid defense, so we just have to be ready mentally and physically when we head out there.”
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images