Denver’s thin air appeared to have a particularly strong effect on Rob Gronkowski during Sunday’s AFC Championship Game.
Team trainers attended to the big tight end early in the second half of the New England Patriots’ eventual 20-18 loss to the Denver Broncos, and television cameras showed him guzzling copious amounts of water on the sideline.
“I was cramping,” Gronkowski told reporters after the game. “I was actually kind of disappointed in myself at that moment. I don’t know exactly why I was cramping. I prepared (for) this game like I have every other game hydration-wise and all that, but it just got to me. But I had to fight through it.
“The trainers did a great job. I had to just pound a couple of bottles of water on the sideline — I kind of felt really full at some point — but I battled back through it.
“As an athlete, you just don’t want that to happen. I’m definitely going to take that into consideration down the road to make sure stuff like doesn’t happen again in games. But it just did this time. I mean, it was freaky that it did. It didn’t happen all year. But I battled through it, came back, and I was fine after I pounded a couple of bottles of water.”
Gronkowski’s dehydration sidelined him for just a few plays, and he went on to play a major role in the Patriots’ ill-fated comeback bid. Though just eight of his 15 targets resulted in completions, Gronkowski collected a game-high 144 receiving yards and hauled in two huge catches on the Patriots’ final offensive drive, including a 4-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady that cut New England’s deficit to two points.
A successful two-point conversion would have tied the score and likely sent the game to overtime, but Brady’s pass to Julian Edelman was deflected by Aqib Talib and intercepted by Bradley Roby, securing Denver a spot in Super Bowl 50.
The Broncos’ defense terrorized Brady throughout the afternoon, sacking the Patriots quarterback four times, hitting him 20 times and picking off two of his passes. Playing behind a porous offensive line, Brady posted a 56.4 passer rating — his lowest in a game since Week 7 of the 2013 season.
“It’s football,” Gronkowski told reporters. “They have a good defense. It’s not like we were going out there and playing some defense that has nobodies on it. They’ve got great players, and they just made more plays than us when they needed to.”
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images
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