Philip G. Pavely/USA Today Sports

Hannable: The demise of Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski was greatly exaggerated this week

Ryan Hannable
December 18, 2017 - 1:25 am

PITTSBURGH — Remember just five days ago when some were questioning Tom Brady following his subpar performance last Monday night against the Dolphins?

Some said he was starting to show the effects of being 40 years old, while others said his Achilles injury was impacting his performance.

Also, remember on Friday when some were wondering what was up with Rob Gronkowski following his first press conference since being suspended?

Yeah, none of that mattered Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh when the two carried the Patriots to a 27-24 win over the Steelers in a wild, crazy game.

The Pittsburgh defense did a solid job most of the afternoon, holding the Patriots to going 3-for-9 on third down and as a team keeping Brady and the offense off the field, winning the time of possession battle 35:07 to 24:53.

Through it all, the Patriots managed to get one last shot at the Steelers defense. Finally, the New England defense got a third-down stop and set up the Patriots offense with the ball on their own 23-yard line with 2:06 left trailing 24-19.

Brady and Gronkowski would not be denied.

After an incompletion to Gronkowski on first down, Brady hit Gronkowski over the middle for 26 yards and a first down at the two-minute warning. Then, Brady found Gronkowski again for 26 yards getting the Patriots to the Steelers’ 25-yard line with 1:09 left and the Steelers called timeout to try and preserve time.

On the next play, Gronkowski made a terrific shoestring catch to get down to the 8-yard line and Dion Lewis ran it into the end zone on the next play to give the Patriots the lead. The tight end wasn’t done there, as he caught the two-point conversion to give the Patriots a three-point lead. Without this two-point play, the ending on the other end of the field likely would have been completely different, as the Steelers would have been able to win the game with a field goal.

Six catches for 69 yards and a Patriots lead. What a drive for Gronkowski.

“He’s a beast,” Danny Amendola said.

“[Gronk] played a hell of a game,” Brady added. “I’m just really proud of him. That guy fights his ass off every day. I’m happy for him and happy for our team.”

The tight end also got increasingly more excited after each catch on the drive, even flexing at one point.

“I love getting in that zone,” Gronkowski said. “It feels good. I wish I could be like that 24/7, every week and every day.”

The final drive capped what was a performance for the ages against a team he has historically dominated. Gronkowski finished the game with nine catches for 168 yards. He also posted a perfect game score of 99.9 by Pro Football Focus, the 14th time a player has ever done that since it started the figures in 2006.

The 168 yards receiving were a career-high and 135 of them came in the second half. It was the seventh time in his career he had had over 100 yards receiving in one half and the third time he's done it in the second half. It was also his 26th 100-yard receiving game, which has him five away from tying Tony Gonzalez for the most in NFL history by tight ends.

Brady on the other hand finished the contest 22-for-35 with 298 yards, a touchdown and an interception. His comeback was the 53rd time he’s led the Patriots back from a fourth quarter deficit and the second time this season. 

Also, with the win he passed George Blanda (218) for second all-time in wins at any position, including the postseason. He now trails Adam Vinatieri, who has 224.

So, the week began with some wondering where Brady and Gronkowski were trending, and it ended with these same people realizing the two aren’t going anywhere and are as good as ever.

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