While scrolling through Twitter today I happened across the NFL’s top 10 Tom Brady plays from 2018. And I couldn’t help but notice one consistent element of the list: Rob Gronkowski.
We all know that Gronk was not at 100% in 2018. He looked like a shell of himself at times, and his potential retirement this offseason is very real. And after all the injuries he’s sustained and the grueling work he’s put in as one of the NFL’s best blocking tight ends, I wouldn’t blame Gronkowski for retiring. He deserves to ride off into the sunset this offseason with his 2.5 Super Bowl rings for a future of action movies and personalized workout equipment.
Gonk Can Still Gronk
But analyzing Gronk’s potential retirement and future is for a different article. I acknowledge he wasn’t one of the best tight ends in the NFL 2018. Hell, Chris Herndon of the New York Jets
Yes, he isn’t the same consistent threat that Patriots fans have came to know and love. But for for a man who had a “down year”, he sure made a lot of impressive plays.
Just look at these top plays from Brady that include Gronk and tell me this man couldn’t back for 2019. And not just come back, but give defensive coordinators heart palpitations:
Top Play #10
Towards the end of the AFC Championship
To start, he ran through press coverage by Eric Berry like it was nothing. From there Gronkowski angled for the sideline, battled for position with Berry, and
Top Play #9
Man coverage? Check. Safety giving Gronk too much space (aka, ANY room)? Check. Guy draped on Gronk’s back as he makes the catch for the TD? Obviously.
Top Play #6
Ok, I won’t lie, this play is mostly just impressive because Brady is a God and turned a sack into a first down. But Gronk did do a great job continuing his route into the soft zone. Plus he secured the ball before three Colts converged on him, which is nice.
Sick of scrolling up to watch the plays? I got you:
Top Play #5
This is where Gronk turns into cheat code. With the game tied at 40 and just 51 seconds left in the regular season slugfest between Kansas City and New England, the Patriots needed a quick strike. Enter #87. With Gronk lined up one on one against cornerback Josh Shaw, who was later waived by the Chiefs, Brady saw an opportunity.
Gronk hit the turbo button, battled through some holding by Shaw, and got almost two full yards of separation over the cornerback before he made the catch for 39 yards and his 500th career reception.
Ho hum, just a 265 pound tight end with a cadaver’s back outrunning a 201 pound cornerback on a go route. Oh, and the Patriots kicked the game winning field goal thanks to that play by Gronk.
Top Play #4
When will coordinators learn to stop putting linebackers on Gronk? Brady sees the coverage that the Jets were playing and bides his time until Gronk outran the initial coverage. Brady then delivered a perfect strike before the safety can get to the ball.
This play highlights something that fans take for granted with Gronk: he has great hands. Rarely does Gronk make an uncontested catch, as defenses usually send a safety over the top to help. This results in some extra contact more often than note. And despite this extra contact, Rob seems to always come down with it, just like this play against the Jets.
Top Play #1
The Super Bowl. Did you doubt that Gronkowski would make a spectacular play when it mattered most? And his sixth appearance in Tom Brady’s Top 10 plays from 2018 is indeed his best, and most important, as it went on to be the play that set up the lone touchdown of the game.
The crazy thing is, the route that Gronk ran off this play is similar to what he did against the Chiefs. Oh, and the Texans. Also the Jets. And the Chiefs again. Gronk ran a seam route up the field against a linebacker, the safety was too slow to adjust, and Brady delivered a perfect ball. Game, set, Super Bowl champs.
Put Some Respeck on Gronk’s Name
Yes, Gronkowski was blessed to play with the greatest quarterback to ever lace them up in Tom Brady. But never forget that even with his body putting up a better fight than most defenders, he was still a game changer.
Sure, his overall stat line for the 2018 season is not one for the record books, but Brady owes the man some TB12 merch for helping him look so damn good. And per the rumor mill, he may not be done helping Brady be the GOAT just yet.
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