If you glanced at the box score, you’d think Rob Gronkowski was a non-factor in Saturday night’s wild-card playoff game.
You would be wrong.
The former New England Patriots tight end finished without a catch on one target in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 31-23 win over the Washington Football Team, but his work as a blocker was vital for the Bucs’ offense.
The clearest example of this came on what proved to be the game-winning 3-yard touchdown run. Lined up in line to the left, Gronkowski bulldozed defensive end Casey Toohill straight into the end zone to clear a path for running back Leonard Fournette.
That powerful block earned Gronkowski a shoutout from former Patriots teammate Dont’a Hightower, who saluted him on Twitter.
Gronkowski was a productive pass-catcher in his first season with Tampa Bay (45 catches, 623 yards, seven touchdowns), but the Bucs prioritized his blocking ability Saturday night. The 31-year-old ran routes on just 16 of quarterback Tom Brady’s 43 dropbacks, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, and helped Tampa neutralize standout Washington edge rusher Chase Young.
Young, who should be a shoo-in for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, was held without a sack, QB hit or tackle for loss in the Bucs victory.