Gronkowski on Bengals chippiness: 'They're always baiting everyone'

Gronkowski on Bengals chippiness: 'They're always baiting everyone'

FOXBORO -- The Patriots let Cincinnati, and their emotions, get to them toward the end of their 35-17 win on Sunday. 

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Both Rob Gronkowski and LeGarrette Blount were tagged with flags for extra-curricular activity in the fourth quarter. Gronkowski's came after his final catch of the day, giving him a career-high 162 yards. Blount's came after he scored the final touchdown of the game and was celebrating with teammates when he found himself tangled with Bengals. 

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said he didn't have a good look at Gronkowski's penalty since it occurred near the visitor's sideline, but his attitude toward those flags coming out late was predictable: "Bottom line, we need fewer of those."

Gronkowski seemed to take issue with a hit he took from Cincinnati corner Adam Jones over the middle when Jones dove at the big tight end's ankles. Words were exchanged back and forth, and the conversation continued moments later after Gronkowski's next catch. Or at least it appeared to continue. 

After the game, Gronkowski said he wasn't doing much in the way of talking. 

"There was really nothing really said," he said. "I was just bobbing my head, I think, and they gave me a personal foul."

Another similar penalty, by rule, would have forced officials to eject him from the game. Gronkowski made his way to the Patriots sidelines after the play, spoke to Belichick and then to tight ends coach Brian Daboll. They didn't appear to have much in the way of sympathy for the All-Pro, but Gronkowski came back onto the field soon thereafter, receiving a huge ovation from the Gillette Stadium crowd. 

Gronkowski indicated that he should have been aware that the Bengals may try to coax him into a bad decision. Their recent history -- most notably last season's Wild Card Round game with the Steelers -- suggests that they may try to bait opponents into playing a certain style.

"They do that every game," Gronkowski said. "They’re always baiting everyone to do that. That’s the style they play . . . I kind of gave into it when I got my penalty. Got to watch out for that."

Fellow tight end Martellus Bennett said after the game that Gronkowski was not pleased with a hit that Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict dished out away from the football in the fourth quarter. On a completion to receiver Danny Amendola, Burfict rolled into Bennett's legs. Bennett thought Gronkowski's emotional reaction may have been sparked by that questionable play. 

"We were just playing football, man," Bennett said. "It gets like that sometimes. We've got guys who don't back down from anyone and play hard throughout the whole game. That's just the way it is. We don't back down. We're not looking for trouble, but we don't walk away from trouble, either."

Blount, like Gronkowski, said he wasn't surprised by what the Patriots saw from the Bengals in the way of after-the-play decorum. 

"We know that they're an intense team," Blount said. "They're emotional. They're passionate. They love the game. Tempers flare whenever things aren't going their way. We just gotta continue to play ball, and we just gotta continue to stick to our game plan and try to win games."

Blount added: "You play football, it's a lot of guys, testosterone, egos, you know. You're losing the game. You're winning the game. You're celebrating. Everybody sees that you're having fun. Ultimately, when you have guys that are losing games, it's not easy to take. That goes for anybody. We just gotta keep our composure and continue to play football."

'Leprechaun' Gronk dropping more hints about future plans - sort of

'Leprechaun' Gronk dropping more hints about future plans - sort of

Rob Gronkowski, decked out in his finest St. Patrick's Day duds over the weekend in Nashville, reportedly tried to shed some light on his NFL future.

Of course, while Gronk was doing Gronk things, he told a Patriots fan one thing and a reporter another.

Breech is an NFL writer for His father is former Cincinnati Bengals kicker Jim Breech. And the "69ers" aren't a real team.


AFC East is starting to prepare for post-Brady life

AFC East is starting to prepare for post-Brady life

The Patriots' "direction" never really changes. They're always "going for it" because they're always one of the best teams in the league. 

The rest of the AFC East is usually in flux. The other teams range from hoping for 8-8 to trying to bottom out in hopes of a high draft pick. Yet right now, it seems the stars are aligning and that the Jets, Bills and Dolphins all have the mindset: Change things now and be ready to pounce once Brady is gone. 

The Jets traded up to No. 3 on Saturday, assuring themselves a chance at one of this draft's top quarterbacks. The Bills, with picks Nos. 12 and 22, are expected by pundits to make a similar move up. The Dolphins, fresh off cutting bait with Ndamukong Suh in an attempt at a culture change, have the 11th pick and could use it on a quarterback to either push or replace Ryan Tannehill. 

None of the three teams are close to pushing the Patriots as long as Brady's around, even with the Bills coming off a season in which they reached the playoffs. Yet there's a two-or-three-year plan on which all three teams could have designs: Get the quarterback now, build around him and be in a good situation by the time Brady is done. 

We've seen these teams try to rebuild before during the Brady Era, with only limited success. Mark Sanchez worked out better in New York than anyone could have initially expected, but that success lasted way shorter than any believers could have hoped. Now, it seems they try again. 

Over in Buffalo, the end of the Tyrod Taylor era hardly means the beginning of the Nathan Peterman era. Those two first-rounders should easily be able to get the Bills into the top five, and they've also got two second-rounders and two third-rounders. Hell, they have the pieces to get to No. 1 if Cleveland is bold enough to pass on their choice of Darnold/Rosen/Allen/Mayfield. 

The Dolphins are in the more interesting spot. Tannehill missed all of last season and he's 29. If you're six years into your career and your team still isn't totally sure if you can be one of the better QBs in the league, you probably aren't one of the better QBs in the league. At the very least, Lamar Jackson should be there at No. 11. They could also trade up. 

At the start of last season, the Patriots had far and away the two best QBs in the AFC East. Now, it stands to reason that at least two of their divisional opponents (the Jets and Bills) will come away with what they hope are franchise quarterbacks. And if any of these guys hit, the Pats will have gone from the best QB situation in the NFL to seeing some actual competition waiting for them by the time their own quarterback is done. 

Of course, all three of these teams usually suck at everything, so it shouldn't be a big deal.