FOXBORO, Mass. — Rob Gronkowski is coming off perhaps his worst performance in what’s been a frustrating season for the New England Patriots tight end.
In a 24-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings last Sunday, Gronkowski finished with as many penalties (three) as receptions and displayed some uncharacteristically poor run blocking. Even with the injuries that kept him out earlier this year now healed, the four-time All-Pro simply has not looked like himself for much of this season.
Still, Adam Gase wouldn’t be surprised if Vintage Gronk makes a return to the spotlight this Sunday in Miami.
Speaking Wednesday on a conference call with New England reporters, the Dolphins head coach raved about Gronkowski, saying he absolutely will receive extra attention from Miami’s defense.
“Oh, yeah,” Gase said. “If you want to look strictly at numbers, then you can get caught up into something else. But if you watch the tape, you can see there might be times where he’s open and for whatever reason, the ball goes somewhere else or there’s some kind of pressure and something didn’t work out the right way, but a lot of times, you know when he’s either supposed to get the ball or some kind of penalty occurs.
“He’s still a major force in their offense, and I know this: we have to make sure we do a good job with him with however we do it. Because he’s one of those guys when all of the sudden, you think he’s being quiet, and then the next thing you know, he has two or three touchdowns and 100-plus yards and just absolutely cuts your heart out on the defensive side.”
When the Patriots and Dolphins met at Gillette Stadium in Week 4, Gronkowski caught four passes on seven targets for 77 yards before leaving the game with an ankle injury. He played the following week but later sat out three games in a four-week span with back and ankle issues before being removed from the injury report last week.
“Every year, he seems to take the brunt of the blows,” Gase said. “Anytime he gets the ball thrown to him, nobody wants to tackle him high — everybody goes for his legs. He’s getting pulled in every which direction, and just because he’s bigger than everybody else, it’s hard to tell who’s really getting pushed around or not. He’s got to fight a lot of factors. He’s getting double-teamed all the time, and I’m sure that takes a toll on his body. But he shows up every Sunday and he competes extremely hard.
“He’s a good run blocker, a good pass protector. He does a great job anytime the ball’s thrown to him. He’s just a hard guy for any defense to defend because it’s like a grown man playing with a bunch of kids. He’s such a big target, and he’s one of those guys that, when you go to face him, you just try to do everything you can to just contain him. You know he’s going to get his catches, and when he gets in the red zone, you’ve just got to try to keep him out of there.”
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
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