Rob Gronkowski took a bow in New Era Field’s northwest end zone Sunday before trying to spike the ball to Earth’s inner core.
The extra celebration on top of his patented Gronk Spike was well deserved. The 53-yard touchdown not only broke the game open in the second quarter of New England’s 41-25 win but also upped Gronkowski’s career touchdown total to 69, passing Stanley Morgan to set the Patriots’ franchise record. Morgan paid Gronkowski a congratulatory phone call after the game.
“To come back to my hometown where I grew up watching all the Bills games versus the Patriots, it’s just an unbelievable honor,” Gronkowski said. “I love being a part of this organization, being a part of the Brady era. I couldn’t have asked for a better situation when I got drafted here seven years ago.”
The touchdown was classic Gronk on a day full of Gronkiness that you couldn’t make up if you tried.
The 6-foot-6, 265-pound Amherst native made the record-setting play look easy. The Patriots came to the line with two plays in mind, one run and one pass, and quarterback Tom Brady opted for the pass when he saw the Bills’ defensive alignment. Gronkowski faked to the flag and then broke to the post in front of cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman – a mismatch of only 10 inches and 100 pounds – before catching Brady’s pass in stride. The entire Gronkowski family suite chanted the record-setting number over and over after he scored.
“I want to give a shout out to my mom,” Gronkowski said, “because the first thing yesterday when she came to my hotel, we sat down and she goes, ‘Rob, I’m going to be so proud of you when you score your 69th touchdown.’ So I was like, I gotta give her a shout out for sure for letting me know she’s super proud of me. So, hi Mom! Thank you.”
This is, of course, the same family that launched Gronk’s Party Ship last February, a three-day booze cruise that Gordy Gronkowski, the father/ringleader, said Sunday was too crazy to do again. But their playful, competitive nature is also what endears the Gronkowskis to fans, which makes homecomings that much sweeter for Rob.
Gronkowski continued his absolute dominance over the Bills, finishing with five catches for 109 yards and a score. He has more touchdowns against the Bills – 11 in 11 games – than any other team, and produces at an even better rate against Pitttsburgh (where he finished his high school career), scoring eight touchdowns in five games.
“He gets all hyped up coming back home,” Gordy said on the field after the game. “It’s a thrill to come back and play in your hometown in front of all those fans, all his buddies and coaches and everything. This is where it all started, right here.”
Gronkowski had roughly 30 people waiting for him in the stadium after the game, including his younger brother Glenn, who opened the season as the Bills’ fullback and is now on New England’s practice squad. The Patriots are now 7-1 and primed to win their 13th division title in the last 14 years, including all six seasons they’ve had Gronkowski on the team.
“Definitely envisioned big things (growing up here),” Gronkowski said, “but nothing, like, on a scale of being like this. It’s just unbelievable.”