EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Jets have been drafting with Rob Gronkowski in mind for years now, it seems.
This past spring they took safety Jamal Adams in the first round and safety Marcus Maye in the second, prompting analysts everywhere to assume they would play key roles in Operation Halt Party Boy. Last year the Jets took hybrid linebacker Darron Lee in the first round, looking for a player with some size to run with the biggest mismatch in the league.
All three were on the field Sunday for Gronkowski's return to the lineup. None of them could stop him consistently.
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After missing New England's Week 5 win in Tampa Bay as a late scratch with a thigh injury, Gronkowski re-joined the Patriots offensive huddle at MetLife Stadium and provided an immediate shot on the arm. He finished the day with six catches for 83 yards and two scores to help the Patriots win, 24-17.
"It went smooth," Gronkowski said after. "Everything didn't go as well as you thought it would. Every play didn't go as well as you wanted it to, but what's most important is coming out with the win. And every time you come out to New York, it's always going to be a dog fight. Those guys played hard."
They did. And they won their share of battles with Gronkowski -- Lee in particular.
He was all over Gronkowski early in the game, helping force an incompletion and a Patriots punt. Before the end of the half, Lee was there again to force an incompletion with Gronkowski down near the goal line.
But Gronkowski plucked a 25-yard reception off the top of the 6-foot-1 linebacker's helmet for a first down during New England's first touchdown drive, and both of Gronkowski's touchdowns came with Adams in coverage. His two-yarder was a quick-hitter that seemed uncoverable with Adams playing off of Gronkowski's inside shoulder. Gronkowski's 33-yarder in the third quarter came out of a stack formation that slowed down Adams early in the down and created some space between the tight end and the safety.
It was Gronkowski's 15th career game with multiple receiving touchdowns, tying the franchise record set by Randy Moss.
"Just gave them up," Adams said. "Got picked on one. The one in the red zone, Brady put it on real quick. He delayed, then got it out real quick. Lost my leverage."
For a team that went 1-for-3 in the red zone against the Bucs without him, having Gronkowski to help turn drives into touchdowns made an immediate impact.