Patriots

Gronkowski fastest tight end in NFL history to 60 touchdowns

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Gronkowski fastest tight end in NFL history to 60 touchdowns

It took Rob Gronkowski a while to get involved on Sunday night, but when he did, his impact on the game reverberated around Lucas Oil Stadium.

Gronkowski was held without a catch on just one target in the first half of New England's 34-27 win over Indianapolis, but early in the third quarter, he rumbled into the end zone from 25 yards away to give the Patriots a go-ahead score and a 26-21 lead.

The touchdown was Gronkowski's 60th of his six-year career, and it came in his 70th regular-season game. That is the fewest number of games for any tight end to reach 60 touchdowns in NFL history.

After his slow start, Gronkowski finished the game with three catches for 50 yards and the score.

"It just is what it is," Gronkowski said of his usage early in the game. "When my number’s called, I just gotta make a play. If it’s not, I just gotta run a good route. That’s why it’s such a great game. It’s just a team game. Just gotta go out there and do my job, blocking, receiving, whatever it is."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick explained after the game that the Colts changed their defensive game plan somewhat in the second half, which may have helped Gronkowski get free.

"A little more man coverage in the second half than they did in the first half," Belichick said. "They started off in a lot of zone coverage, decent amount of three-man rush early in the game, and as the game went on, it seemed like they went to less three man rush and more man-to-man coverage."

Gronkowski's first catch in the game came on a slant when he was lined up as a wide receiver across from safety Dwight Lowery.

Two plays later, quarterback Tom Brady faked a handoff to get two Colts linebackers to attack the line of scrimmage. Gronkowski found the opening in the middle of the field, and Brady found him with a well-placed pass, allowing Gronkowski to run with a head of steam toward the goal line.

"We talked about that," Brady said of the touchdown play. "That was a good opportunity. It was a play-action fake and the linebacker bit up pretty good so Gronk was clean into the secondary. He's pretty dangerous because when he gets going in space, he's hard to tackle. Made a good play off the free safety and rumbled into the end zone. That was a big play in the game."

Gronkowski was the fifth tight end in league history to notch his 60th career touchdown, joining Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez, Shannon Sharpe and Jerry Smith. It took Gates -- who originally had the record as the quickest to 60 scores -- 110 games to reach the mark.

"He's a big part of our offense," Brady said. "Obvioulsy getting him going, he got in the end zone, which is good to see. It's been a few weeks for him so we'd like to get him in there more often."

Gronkowski has 23 catches for 425 yards and five touchdowns thus far this season. He has 59 career receiving touchdowns and one rushing touchdown since entering the league as a rookie second-round pick in 2010.

Report: 2020 NFL Draft will be conducted from homes, not team facilities

Report: 2020 NFL Draft will be conducted from homes, not team facilities

While the tradition of the NFL draft in late April apparently will not be stopped by the coronavirus, the traditional draft "war room" might be.

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NFL teams are preparing to conduct the April 23-25 draft with personnel at their homes and not at their team facilities, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported.  

Schefter and ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski also reported that President Trump had a conference call on Saturday with the commissioners of each of the major league sports and Trump said he believes the NFL season should start on time. The regular season is scheduled to begin Sept. 10, a Thursday night, when the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs host an opponent to be determined. 

Trump, who last week expressed the hope that mass gatherings could return by Easter Sunday before backtracking on the advice of medical experts and scientists and extending restrictions until April 30, also said he hopes to have fans back in stadiums and arenas by August and September. 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell ordered team facilities closed more than a week ago.

Earlier, when the NFL announced that the draft would go on as scheduled, it was thought that the teams would work from their facilities - with only 10 people in a room, each six feet apart - to make the picks and contact players chosen via video conferencing. 

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It appears from Schefter's report that the video conferencing will be going on not only with picks but among individual team's general managers, scouts and coaches as they shelter in place like the rest of us while the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on the world. 

It creates an unprecedented draft, likely devoid of a lot of the glitzy production values that the original idea of the draft in Las Vegas would've had, but still a far cry from when the teams' decision-makers met in a smoky New York hotel ballroom on a Tuesday in late April to do the picking. 

 

New York Post salutes Robert Kraft with 'Thank You, Pats' front page

New York Post salutes Robert Kraft with 'Thank You, Pats' front page

That whole Boston-New York rivalry thing gets put aside when it comes to public health and the crisis we all find ourselves in these days.

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There's no better example of that than the front page of the New York Post on Saturday morning:

Patriots owner Robert Kraft sent the team plane to China to purchase and bring back 1.7 million N95 protective masks needed to help combat the deadly coronavirus that has hit New York City particularly hard. The Kraft family donated 300,000 masks to New York-area hospitals and they arrived on Friday in a tractor-trailer emblazoned with the Patriots logo. 

In a city that, as Post columnist Mark Cannizzaro put it, has "been trained to disdain" everything about the Patriots and Boston teams, it should be a gesture that forever puts Kraft in the New York family: 

Today, however, everyone associated with New York — Jets fans or otherwise — should salute the 78-year-old Kraft, who delivered a deed so special in this frightening and uncertain time of the coronavirus crisis that it should never be forgotten.

Even Jets superfan "Fireman Ed" Anzalone told the Post he has to put the rivalry aside.

“I don’t like his team. They’ve been beating us up for quite some time. But Kraft is just a wonderful guy, so I’m not surprised by his actions.”