Another Tough One for Gronk
By Des Bieler
The Washington Post
It’s been a fairly disappointing season overall for Rob Gronkowski, but the past two weeks have been particularly rough. What they have in common is that the Patriots’ star tight end has found himself getting roasted for crucial plays he failed to make on defense.
Going back to Week 14, Gronkowski was the last line of defense on a last-second play by the Dolphins, and he failed miserably to make a tackle as Kenyan Drake beat him to the corner of the end zone to seal the “Miami Miracle.”
Sure, Gronkowski’s paid to score touchdowns, not prevent them, but his stumbling, lurching effort on the play seemed all too emblematic of a season in which he appears to have lost some (a lot?) of his athleticism. Not counting his rookie year, the five-time Pro Bowler is on pace for career lows in receptions, yards and touchdowns.
However, Gronk is still an imposing physical specimen, so he should have been able to push Pittsburgh’s Joe Haden -- all 5-11 and 195 pounds of him -- out of bounds on Sunday right? On a game-changing play in the fourth quarter of the Patriots’ Week 15 showdown with the Steelers, New England quarterback Tom Brady tried to throw the ball out of bounds to avoid a sack, but his rainbow toss came down near the right sideline, and Haden went airborne to snag it.
All Gronkowski had to do to prevent a crucial interception, with his team trailing 14-10, was give Haden a solid shove, or so it appeared. Alternatively, perhaps Gronkowski could have made a better play on the ball itself, at least preventing Haden from catching it in the first place.
Alas, Haden made the catch, thwarting that drive and putting another stain on the defensive résumé of Gronkowski.
Then again, as many were happy to point out Sunday, at least Gronkowksi made the tackle this time. Unfortunately for New England, he only made two catches, as well, for a paltry 21 yards and no touchdowns in a 17-10 loss.
Of course, we’re still talking about the Patriots, so the defeat won’t stop them from going to the playoffs for the billionth straight season. Once there, it’s entirely possible, if not likely, that Gronk and Brady will summon up some of their old magic, at least for a round or two.
But for the time being, the NFL’s most fun-loving tight end isn’t exactly having a blast in his cameo appearances as a defender. You know things aren’t going well for Gronk when the only spike he’s associated with is a sharp rise in snarky Internet comments.