FOXBORO, Mass. — Earlier this week, Rob Gronkowski said he’s hoping to improve his red-zone production, which so far has consisted of just one target and zero receptions through six games.
It’s also been odd to see Gronkowski, the New England Patriots’ superstar tight end, go five consecutive weeks without a touchdown, as his lone score this season came way back in Week 1.
Bill Belichick doesn’t view any of this as a problem, though. The Patriots coach scoffed at a question about Gronkowski’s numbers during his Friday morning news conference.
“We’re really just worried about this game, trying to go out there and beat Chicago,” Belichick said. “So that’s what we’re going to focus on. If we score enough points and hold them to fewer, then we’ll win. That’s the goal. …
“Our goal is not to go out there and create stats for an individual player. We just don’t think that way. We try to go out and win the game, so whatever we need to do to win the game, then that’s what our goal is. Our goal is not to create individual stats. That’s just not how we do it.”
Gronkowski’s stat line of 26 catches, 405 yards and one touchdown through six games is perfectly respectable, but it’s not the kind of eye-popping output fans have come to expect from the four-time All-Pro.
In 2017, Gronkowski finished with 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns in 14 games, including one in which he was not targeted (4.9 catches, 77.4 yards, 0.5 touchdowns per game). This year, he’s on pace to finish with 69 catches for 1,080 yards and three scores in 16 games (4.3 catches, 67.5 yards, 0.17 touchdowns per game).
Gronkowski’s stats thus far are particularly noteworthy considering the Patriots reworked his contract just before the season began, allowing him to earn up to an additional $4.3 million by hitting certain statistical benchmarks.
Per the terms of his reworked deal, Gronkowski can earn a $1.1 million bonus by: 1) playing at least 80 percent of offensive snaps, 2) catching 70-plus passes, 3) tallying 1,085 receiving yards or 4) catching nine touchdown passes. Hitting more than one of those marks will increase his bonus, which is capped at $3.3 million, with the final $1 million coming in the form of per-game roster bonuses.
Gronkowski currently is on pace to hit just one of those four numbers (86.9 percent of snaps so far), though he’s close in catches and yards, as well.
Asked about Gronkowski’s contract, Belichick reiterated that the team’s priority always is to win games, not pad certain players’ stats.
“Again, our goal is the same as it’s always been,” Belichick said. “I think Tom (Brady) and Rob and everyone else on this team, Devin (McCourty) and Pat (Chung) and everyone else, they come in here and work hard to try to go and compete well and win games. You’d have to ask other people that question. I don’t know. Our goal is to win games. I know other people have other agendas, but that’s not ours.”
Gronkowski, who frequently has faced double coverage this season, should see his opportunities increase as wide receivers Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman continue to take on larger roles in the Patriots’ offense. He tallied just three catches on four targets in last Sunday’s win over the Kansas City Chiefs but finished with a team-high 97 yards, 81 of which came on two crucial plays late in the fourth quarter.
?It is what it is,? Gronkowski said Wednesday. ?First off, I?ve got to get open. I?ve got to get out there and run better routes, and then I?ll start seeing more targets — whatever the play is called.?