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Take Two-sday: Rob Gronkowski gets his man

New England tight end’s big play ignites Patriots biggest drive of the day.

By his own superhuman standards, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski had a relatively quiet day in Sunday's 30-6 win in Dallas.

The All-Pro playmaker had "just" four catches for 66 yards. Dallas rookie first-round defensive back Byron Jones did an extremely impressive job manning up with Gronkowski most of the evening, something very few players of any experience in the league have shown the ability to do.

But even with his limited production, big No. 87 made a play that's worth a second look as it helped catapult the Patriots from a halftime dogfight to the blowout on the scoreboard that everyone expected.

New England was very much in a battle at halftime at AT&T Stadium with the visitors holding a 13-3 that came only thanks to a 57-yard Stephen Gostkowski career-long, franchise-record-tying field goal just before the break.

The game had bogged down because the Cowboys essentially punched Tom Brady and the Patriots in mouth. New England dealt with negative plays early on, including five first-half sacks. A Rolando McClain 9-yard sack turned the Patriots opening drive that had reached the Dallas 32 into a punt. A Greg Hardy 7-yard sack put the offense behind the chains on its second drive, having to settle for a 49-yard field goal.

The negative plays combined with Dallas' unique defensive front of three down linemen and two linebackers that caught the Patriots off guard had New England in an unexpected rock fight in Big D.

The struggles seemed destined to continue when Julian Edelman was called for a holding penalty to push the Patriots back to the 10-yard line for first-and-20 on the opening drive of the second half.

Needing a spark and a play, that's when Brady and the New England offense went to their best weapon.

Brady lined up in the shotgun with two tight ends to his left, including Gronkowski split wide out. The quarterback had a pair of receivers to the right side, with Dion Lewis lined up next to him in the backfield.


Gronkowski was lined up outside the left numbers with the 6-0, 205-pound Jones across from him in tight coverage. Dallas' lone deep safety lined up well inside the left hash, giving Gronkowski plenty of room to work down the field and that's exactly what Brady was looking for.

On the snap, Brady knew immediately where he wanted to go. With Michael Williams staying in to block Hardy off the left side with Marcus Cannon, No. 12 had the time he needed. The rookie actually had nice coverage on the play, but Brady threw a back-shoulder pass that Gronkowski stopped to grab before dispatching Jones to the turf to continue to rumble down the left sideline for the 33-yard gain.


One big Gronkowksi play took the Patriots from the shadow of their own goal line to near midfield, igniting a drive that would continue until Dion Lewis lit the scoreboard with an electrifying 10-yard, catch-and-run touchdown to put the Patriots up 20-3.


But Lewis may not have gotten his chance to make his big play had Gronkowksi not made his.

After a half in which Gronkowksi was held to one catch for 6 yards by the impressive rookie, Josh McDaniels knew he'd get man coverage on his best pass catcher on the outside. It was a great play call, a good throw by Brady and another in a long line of impressive feats for Gronkowksi.

It helped turn a struggle into a three-score win.

It's a play from the best tight end in the game that's very much worthy of a Take Two-sday second look.

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