FOXBORO, Mass. — Some notes and nuggets from Friday’s New England Patriots media availability at Gillette Stadium:
— Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski had plenty of nice things to say about Antonio Gates, who is in his 15th season with the Los Angeles Chargers.
“I’ve always watched Antonio,” Gronkowski said. “I’ve always been a big fan of his game and the way he just runs routes and gets open, gets separation. It’s just great to watch. I always like to watch him play.”
Gates is one of the most productive tight ends in NFL history, ranking first in touchdown receptions and third in catches behind Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten. He made his NFL debut in 2003, when Gronkowski was a freshman in high school.
“He’s on Year 15,” Gronkowski said. “He must have a great program over there to last that long.”
The Patriots are preparing to host the Chargers this Sunday.
— Gronkowski was called for offensive pass interference Sunday for the second time this season. He made it pretty clear Friday that he did not agree with the call.
— Wide receiver Chris Hogan has taken a beating this season.
Hogan has played in every game, though, catching 28 passes for 378 yards and a team-high five touchdowns.
“Chris is a tough kid,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “I’d say all of our receivers are. It’s a good group, a tough group. They block. They’re tough. They’re competitive.”
— The Patriots and Chargers have squared off in some great games over the years. Brady’s overtime win in his first season as a starter and New England’s divisional-round upset in the 2006 playoffs are two prime examples.
But theirÂ highest-stakes matchup — the 2007 AFC Championship Game — was wholly unremarkable. In fact, it might be the least memorable postseason victory of the Brady/Belichick era.
Philip Rivers and the Chargers came into Foxboro and lost 21-12 to an undefeated Patriots team that didn’t play particularly well compared to the destruction it had rained down on opponents earlier that season.
Brady threw two touchdown passes but also tossed three interceptions — tying his career high for a playoff game — and New England’s defense held San Diego to four field goals to punch its ticket to Super Bowl XLII, where the Patriots had theirÂ perfect season spoiled by the New York Giants.
Thumbnail photo viaÂ Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports Images