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Rob Gronkowski: ‘I’m mad at myself’ for fourth-quarter drop

10.20.13 at 7:09 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski was the subject of much attention Sunday from the Jets defense. (AP)

Rob Gronkowski was the subject of much attention Sunday from the Jets defense. (AP)

EAST RUTHERFORD — By all accounts, Rob Gronkowski made a successful return to the playing field Sunday.

Playing for the first time since three offseason surgeries on his left forearm and a back surgery, Gronkowski caught eight passes on 17 targets from Tom Brady, gained 114 yards and even hauled in a patented 30-yard seam route that set up New England’s first touchdown.

But it was the pass he didn’t haul in that will give him nightmares.

With the Patriots driving for the potential game-winning touchdown at the New York 26, Brady saw Gronkowski behind the defense all alone on a first-down play. Brady put the ball in a spot only Gronkowski could reach. The tight end got a firm right hand on the ball and appeared to bring it down into his body for a catch.

But Gronkowski lost control and it fell to the ground for an incompletion with 30 seconds remaining. Three plays later, the Patriots settled for a 44-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal. The Patriots would fall in overtime, 30-27.

“I’m mad at myself,” Gronkowski said. “I had it. I brought it in, then I dropped it. I have to work there hard in practice. I have to catch more balls in practice.”

Gronkowski also had another chance at a touchdown earlier, but he appeared to lose a Brady pass at the goal line in the sun.

“I didn’t see the ball at all, but that’s no excuse,” Gronkowski said. “You have to be prepared for situations like that. I have to do a better job there. It was a nice throw and could have been a great play.

“We moved the ball well at times. But you have to move the ball well at all times. We have to make more plays. Personally, I have to come down with some of those passes. I could have had some of them, and I have to catch them in the future.”

But overall, no one could complain about the clear impact Gronkowski had on the offense. Brady could see how much the passing game opened up with No. 87 back on the field in uniform.

“Oh, of course,” Brady said. “He’s one of the best players in the NFL. You saw what he did today. It’s his first game back. All of us have to do a better job.”

As for Gronk himself?

“I feel good,” he said. “I just have to keep working hard every week. I have a lot to improve on. It’s football and you’re running around a lot so, yes, you get fatigued. That’s something I have to work on in practice and get my conditioning up.”

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