Gronkowski turned in arguably his best game of the season in their gut-wrenching loss to the Dolphins in Week 14 where he caught all eight of his targets for 107 yards and a touchdown. He’ll look to build off that when New England marches into Hienz Field and takes on the Steelers this weekend.
Gronk does most of his damage in the passing game in the middle of the field, where it opens himself up to take big hits, particularly to the lower half of his body. Time and time again, Gronk has often been able to take those sometimes devastating hits, get up and continue being a dominant force in the passing game.
“Well, there’s no question that he’s an extremely tough guy,” New England Patriots offensive coordinator McDaniels said of his tight end during his Tuesday conference call. “I think we have a lot of those guys on our team and Gronkowski’s certainly one of the tougher ones in the league at that position. I think because of his size and where he usually catches the football, which is in between the numbers, there’s a lot of bodies that eventually come downhill towards him and have an opportunity to make a decision how they want to try to tackle him. Most of those people usually go low, they could choose to do some other thing, but a lot of times they go low because of how big he is and the concept of trying to tackle him high generally isn’t high on everybody’s wish list.
“But there’s no doubt that toughness and courage is a huge element of playing inside in our league and in the passing game and having success and being able to stay focused on the football, finish the play properly, understanding in the back of your mind, you know you’re going to take a hit. I would say Julian [Edelman] is right up there, also. They both do a lot of stuff inside and they have a great understanding of how that works and neither one of them plays the game with fear. Tremendous amount of respect and appreciation for all of the things that they do inside and the toughness that they display week-in and week-out.”
There’s no question that playing his position at his size and understanding what happens in our league now with the emphasis on not hitting people in the head and all the rest of it is it requires a tremendous amount of courage to go in there and continue to run pass routes inside. You know you’re eventually going to incur some punishment, some hits, and thankfully most of those are not to the head and neck area anymore and that’s a good thing.