Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports

Hannable: Rob Gronkowski’s late hit makes Christmas Eve at Gillette Stadium interesting for the wrong reasons

Ryan Hannable
December 03, 2017 - 11:14 pm

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Week 16 will see the Patriots host the Bills at Gillette Stadium and considering Buffalo has never beaten Tom Brady when he’s played a game start-to-finish at home, you can almost already put a “W” next to the game on the schedule.

With the game being on Christmas Eve and against the Bills, some may have already made plans to miss the game, but after what took place at New Era Field Sunday afternoon, the game may have just got interesting — but not as it relates to who wins and who loses.

The Bills are not happy with Rob Gronkowski and seem to want revenge when the two teams meet in three weeks.

Midway through the fourth quarter in the Patriots’ 23-3 win, after an interception of Brady by the Bills' Tre'Davious White on a pass intended for Gronkowski, the tight end jumped towards White when he was on the ground giving him a forearm/elbow to the back of the head. 

Gronkowski apologized to White and said he was frustrated by the officiating, as he felt like he was interfered with on the play, and let his emotions get the best of him. 

White left the game and was in the concussion protocol afterwards and couldn't speak to reporters. However, his teammates did.

“It is unnecessary anywhere in this league,” safety Jordan Poyer said. “Tre made a great play. Obviously Gronk was frustrated and there’s no where in the league for that type of play. I understand flames are going, heat of the battle, but there’s not any room in the league for that type of crap.”

So will there be any carryover in three weeks when the teams meet in New England?

“Of course. Yeah. For sure. Yes,” Poyer added.

Poyer wasn’t the only Bills player to say they won’t forget what happened when the two teams meet on Dec. 24, and they meant it too. They were not at all pleased with what Gronkowski did, and want to get their revenge.

It’s usually not fair to insinuate a team will attempt to cheap-shot or potentially hurt an opposing player, but what and how things were said in the Buffalo locker room Sunday, that’s what it seems like the Bills have in mind.

Gronkowski will likely have to keep his head on a swivel on any route over the middle of the field, which he had a ton of success with Sunday on his way to nine catches and 147 yards receiving. Safeties Micah Hyde and Poyer were two of the players to speak out most in defense of White and therefore may have what happened this past Sunday more on their minds than other players come three weeks from now.

Given Gronkowski’s past with defenders going at his legs and even injuring him like when he tore his ACL on a low hit from T.J. Ward in 2013, it’s worth worrying a little bit of what potentially could happen if the Bills were to react like they hint they might.

There’s a chance the game may not mean anything for the Bills, but facing the Colts and Dolphins the next two weeks they should still be in contention for the final wild card spot. If they are out of the race, this would make Patriots fans even more nervous considering the Bills wouldn’t have anything to play for and could make it even more of a point to go at Gronkowski.

The Patriots would never bench Gronkowski out of fear, but what they could do is take a conservative approach and limit his routes over the middle of the field and do their best to keep him out of harms way. New England appears on its way to a No. 1 or 2 seed in the AFC and the last thing it would want would be to see its star tight end go down with an injury.

New Bills coach Sean McDermott has brought a more mature attitude to the Buffalo locker room and the team has been much more disciplined this year than in years past, but that doesn’t mean one player could act out of line against Gronkowski.

“Apology or not, it is a dirty play,” Hyde said. “It is what it is. We will see them in [three] weeks.”

No longer is the game viewed as just a casual game on Christmas Eve -- the Patriots will now need to make sure they get out of Gillette Stadium with their tight end fully intact and ready for the playoffs.

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