Rob Gronkowski had his second-best game of the season on Sunday with eight catches for 107 yards and a touchdown.
The best? That was the opener against Houston when he had seven catches for 123 yards and a touchdown.
The common denominator in both performances? Health.
In September, he was at his physical best before the onslaught of defensive attention wore him down. Sunday, he was, by his own appraisal, pretty damn fit.
Gronk’s performance would have been the day’s headline were it not for what happened on the game’s final play.
Ironically, not only did Gronk’s offensive output get knocked off the front page by the 69-yard, multi-lateral touchdown pass, Gronk’s defensive role on that play helped do the knocking.
“I mean, that's good enough; but it just shows what happens when you lose,” Gronk said of his offensive output. “You can have a great game, whatever, but if you don't get the W, it really doesn't matter. …
“I felt good out there, definitely,” he also said. “I'm making plays, blocking, getting some chemistry built back up.”
He’s also taking a merciless beating that – when catalogued over the past three games – is instructive in understanding why he’s an outlier player in terms of maintenance.
On Sunday against Miami, a fairly exposed Gronk took three massive shots Dolphins safety Tim McDonald in the first half. The first two were guided-missile shots to his right thigh and knee. The third was a shot to the spine.
On Gronk’s next two catches, he had a chance to curl up a bit and reduce the impact but on those, he was hit and landed on by multiple Dolphins both times. On his final catch of the day, Dolphins corner Bobby McCain was seated on Gronk’s back at the end of the play.
The week before, Gronk got hammered by Vikings safety Harrison Smith on a seam route. That was a shot to the left hip and thigh that upended Gronk and landed him hard.
And before that, Gronk returned from his three-game layoff against the Jets only to be welcomed immediately back to play by a full-body whack from Jets safety Jamal Adams.
The upshot is that, while there’s an element of Gronk fatigue that’s set in over the past few years because of the injuries, the concern about injuries, his feelings of persecution and the offseason foolishness this past spring and summer, he’s a remarkable player.
To take the beating he has over the past few weeks and put up his best game since September is astounding.
But the hits will keep coming as long as the Patriots keep going to him. That’s the Gronk Conundrum.
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