Patriots

Reliving the top 10 Brady-to-Gronk touchdowns at Gillette

Patriots

No one has caught more touchdown passes from Tom Brady over his 22-year career than Rob Gronkowski.

Long before their exploits with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Brady-to-Gronkowski connection was far and away the most prolific combination in New England Patriots franchise history, with Gronkowski catching 90 touchdown passes from Brady between the regular and postseasons from 2010-2018. He's more than double the next-closest Patriot, Julian Edelman, who caught 41.

Of those 90 Gronk scores, an even 50 came at Gillette Stadium -- 42 in the regular season, eight more in the playoffs.

As the high-profile pairing prepares to return to their professional origins, it's time to recall some of the most memorable touchdown connections from Brady to Gronk in Foxboro. Here's a look at the top 10:

10. Week 1, 2010 vs. Cincinnati Bengals

In his NFL debut, Rob Gronkowski caught but one pass for one yard from Brady. That was enough for a fourth quarter touchdown though, the icing on the cake in a 38-24 New England win which helped the team turn the page on a disastrous (by its standards) 2009 campaign en route to a 14-2 regular season record.

9. Week 17, 2011 vs. Buffalo Bills

Compared with some other comebacks the Patriots have been involved with, this one tends to fly under the radar. Could you believe that New England actually trailed Buffalo, 21-0, after a quarter with homefield advantage in the AFC Playoffs on the line?

 

The Patriots went on to win, of course, 49-21, with Gronk's 17-yard touchdown catch from Brady with 1:32 to go in the third quarter giving New England its first lead of the game. The flood gates really poured open in the fourth quarter -- Gronk caught another touchdown himself -- and the road to Super Bowl XLVI would indeed run through Foxboro once again.

As an aside, Gronk's career numbers vs. Buffalo: 69 catches for 1,070 yards and 12 touchdowns in 15 games. Maybe the Bills should've drafted the hometown kid instead of Torell Troup, whom they selected one spot before New England nabbed Gronk. Troup, a defensive tackle, would play 21 games over three seasons in the NFL.

8. Week 11, 2011 vs. Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs weren't good in 2011, but they took a 3-0 led deep into the first half against the Patriots on Monday Night Football before Brady and Gronk got to work. 

Like so many teams both before and since, Kansas City failed to jam Gronk at the line of scrimmage, giving him free release into the secondary. The result was a 52-yard pitch and catch from Brady for a touchdown that gave New England the lead for good in a 34-3 win, and the longest score of Gronk's career at home.

7. Week 1, 2018 vs. Houston Texans

It's even more perplexing to see the start Gronk is off to in 2021 in Tampa when you look at his final season with the Patriots, when he caught a mere 47 passes for 682 yards and just three touchdowns. 

Gronk got off to a fine start in his final Foxboro foray, however, hauling in seven passes for 123 yards and the first touchdown of the season for the Patriots, a 21-yard pass from Brady which would be the final time they'd connect at Gillette.

6. Week 8, 2011 vs. New York Giants

Nearly four years had passed since the Patriots were improbably upset by the Giants in Super Bowl XLII, but with many of the principal players still involved, their first regular season meeting since then came with plenty of hype.

The game didn't disappoint...unless you were a New England fan dead set on revenge. But it was through no fault of Gronk, who broke free along the goal line for a 14-yard touchdown catch from Brady with 1:36 remaining that gave the Patriots a 20-17 lead.

Once again, New England's defense couldn't hold against Eli Manning, however, and it wouldn't be the last time this season, either.

5. Week 5, 2014 vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Nothing extra flashy about this one, but the "On to Cincinnati" game wouldn't have been complete without a connection between the two. Gronk got open in the overmatched Cincinnati secondary on a quick post route for a 16-yard score, helping the Patriots to a 27-10 lead in a game they'd go on to win, 43-17, six days after a debacle in Kansas City in which then-ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer proclaimed "the Patriots, let's face it, they're not good anymore."

 

4. Week 13, 2011 vs. Indianapolis Colts

Gronk tied Antonio Gates and Vernon Davis for most touchdown receptions in a single season by a tight end, with 13, on a 16-yard pass from Brady which gave New England a 24-3 lead over the Peyton Manning-less Colts. Gronk caught two touchdown passes in the game and added a rushing score -- still the only one of his career -- before breaking the record a week later in Washington and finishing the season with 17 receiving touchdowns. It's a record which still stands; Jimmy Graham, who had 16 touchdowns in 2013, is the only other tight end to surpass 13 for a single campaign.

3. AFC Divisional Playoffs, 2014 vs. Baltimore Ravens

It's certainly not even the most famous touchdown pass in this game, but without Brady's quick 5-yard strike to Gronk in the third quarter, would the one in question even be possible? 

The Patriots trailed the Ravens, 14-0, coming back to tie the game before falling behind by 14 points again at 28-14. Gronk's score ignited a second comeback from 14 down, New England went on to win 35-31, and three weeks and 11 (out of 12) allegedly deflated footballs later, the Patriots were Super Bowl XLIX champions.

2. Week 1, 2015 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

New England opened defense of its first Super Bowl title in 10 years in style, with the rejuvenated Brady wasting no time proving it didn't matter what the air pressure in his footballs were with four touchdown passes, three to Gronk.

Their first connection was the first score of the game, a 16-yard pass in which Gronk tossed a would-be tackler aside up the right sideline en route to the end zone, proving for the millionth time that A) giving Gronk free release off the line of scrimmage was a fool's errand and B) trying to cover him 1-on-1 was a waste of everyone's time.

In seven career games against Pittsburgh, Gronk caught 41 passes for 685 yards and eight touchdowns -- a 16-game pace of 94 catches, 1,566 yards and 18 touchdowns. 

1. AFC Divisional Playoffs, 2011 vs. Denver Broncos

In just his second career playoff game, Gronk had 10 catches for 145 yards -- both still postseason-career highs -- and three touchdowns from Brady, as the Patriots steamrolled the Tim Tebow Broncos, 45-10.

As for which connection in the game was most impressive? Gronk's first score, in which he flew through the air a la Bobby Orr, was certainly tailor made for highlight reels. But the second touchdown pass from Brady to Gronk, with 0:05 left in the second quarter, was Brady's fifth of the first half, helping him set a new NFL record.

 

Brady would finish the game with six touchdown passes in all, matching an NFL postseason record, and finished with a franchise record 363 yards through the air...a total he'd break four more times in his New England career.