Patriots

Five quick thoughts: Gronk explodes in Patriots' 23-3 win over Bills

cp-spark-patriots-bills-gronkowski-2-120317.jpg

Five quick thoughts: Gronk explodes in Patriots' 23-3 win over Bills

Here are five quick-hitting thoughts from what transpired between the Patriots and Bills on Sunday afternoon . . . 

PATRIOTS 23, BILLS 3

1) Rob Gronkowski has always loved heading back to Western New York. Going into Sunday he averaged almost 100 yards and a touchdown in his career in Orchard Park. He was relatively quiet in the first half, but the Patriots made a concerted effort to feed their big man coming out of the break. He finished with 9 grabs for 147 yards, including one emasculating catch when Gronkowski ripped the football from the hands of rookie corner Tre'Davious White. 

2) White and his teammates played Gronkowski physically throughout the course of the game, and eventually Gronkowski lost his mind. White held and pushed Gronkowski during one pass play in the fourth quarter that resulted in a White interception. With the Bills' defensive back on the ground Gronkowski threw himself at White, appearing to injure him with the unnecessary late hit. On the same play, Danny Amendola launched himself at Micah Hyde, resulting in a brief scrap that saw both players get penalized. Unhappy with the outcome, Bills linebacker Jerry Hughes said something to an official that earned him a flag. When it was all said and done, the Bills had possession, but they were looking at a first-and-25 situation. Gronkowski has long been frustrated by the physicality he believes defensive backs get away with in coverage on him, but that was an out-of-character moment for No. 87. 

3) Eric Lee had a nice little homecoming of his own at New Era Field. On the Bills practice squad a couple of weeks ago, he faced off against his old club and made a big impact. Though he had issues setting the edge early, he got more comfortable as the game went on. He had a critical pick deep in Patriots territory on the Bills' opening drive, he recorded a sack on Buffalo's second series, he had a pass-breakup to start the fourth quarter, he put a hit on Tyrod Taylor to force an incompletion on the very next play, and he recorded a sack in the final two minutes. With Trey Flowers out, Lee saw a serious uptick in work, and he responded. 

4) Sure! Let's do it! Let's add another Patriots player with Bills ties to the Happy Returns list. Stephon Gilmore, who spent the first five years of his career in Buffalo, was particularly lock-down late. After Taylor left the game injured, giving way to Nathan Peterman, Gilmore got his hands on the football three times. Zay Jones caught one pass off of Gilmore's deflection, but the other two were batted away for incompletions in the end zone -- and one came on fourth down. Another nice day for Gilmore. He's been solid since the bye week. 

5) The Patriots dared the Bills to stop their power running game, and Sean McDermott's defense never really did. Getting their linemen on the move -- particularly athletic right guard Shaq Mason -- the Patriots were able to open up huge running lanes for both Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead. The Bills allowed over 600 yards running in losses to the Saints, Chargers and Jets last month. The Patriots tested them to see if they'd solved their issues. They hadn't. 
 

Ex-Patriot Chris Long rips NFL's new National Anthem policy

Ex-Patriot Chris Long rips NFL's new National Anthem policy

On Wednesday, the NFL announced a new policy on players protesting during the National Anthem.

The new policy permits players to stay in the locker room while the anthem plays, but requires them to stand if they come on to the field.

Former Patriots defensive end Chris Long, now with the Eagles, shared his thoughts on the controversial change via Twitter:

His teammate, Malcolm Jenkins, ripped the new policy on Twitter as well.

Devin and Jason McCourty showed their support for Long and Jenkins' statements by reposting them on their Twitter account:

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Source: Tom Brady not at TB12 while teammates next door at OTAs

Source: Tom Brady not at TB12 while teammates next door at OTAs

A source confirms that Tom Brady was not working out at his TB12 sports medicine facility at Patriot Place in Foxboro while his teammates were on the field at OTAs as was previously reported by the Boston Herald.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski, the other notable absence from OTAs, has been at the TB12 facility on the days his teammates were on the field practicing and wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, who participated in the first day of OTAs, has also been at TB12, according to the source.

The Herald's Karen Guregian reported on Tuesday that both Brady and Gronkowski were at TB12 on Monday, which is right next to Gillette Stadium, where the Patriots were practicing. 

Former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak of 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Zolak and Bertrand" show said Brady likely wasn't even in the country this week.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft said Wednesday that Brady and Gronk are expected to participate in the mandatory mini-camp at Gillette June 5-7.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE