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Snap Judgments: Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, James White overcome sluggish start, beat Bengals 10.16.16 at 4:05 pm ET
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Oct 16, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12)  makes a pass while protected from Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins (97) by center David Andrews (60) during the second quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Brady makes a pass Sunday against the Bengals. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO  –   On a day when Tom Brady made his first home start of the season, it was Dont’a Hightower who gave the Patriots the jumpstart they needed.

With Jamie Collins out with a hip injury and the Patriots trailing 14-10 in the third quarter, Hightower came up with a game-changing safety that sparked the Patriots to a 35-17 win over the Bengals Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

With chants of “Brady, Brady, Brady” all day, the Patriots quarterback finished 29-of-35 for 376 yards and three touchdowns. It was his 73rd career 300-yard game. He now has 15 touchdowns and just three interceptions in seven career games against the Bengals. He is 6-1 in those seven games.

In Brady’s first home game, Rob Gronkowski and James White had huge games. Gronkowski, who missed Friday’s practice with flu-like symptoms, came through big with seven catches on nine targets for a career-high 162 yards and his first touchdown of the season. It was Gronkowski’s 22nd career 100-yard receiving game, tied with Jackie Smith for third-most by a tight end in NFL history.

[For the complete boxscore, click here.]

White caught touchdown passes of 15 and four yards.

With the crowd in a frenzy, the Bengals defense did a good job keeping the Patriots within striking distance in the first quarter.

On the Patriots first drive of the day, Gronkowski had the biggest play, catching a 32-yarder on third-and-9 that set the Patriots up at the Cincinnati 32. But the Patriots could not move it any further and had to settle for a 46-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski.

The second quarter belonged to Cincinnati and it could have been worse for the Patriots.

After Dalton hit a wide open Gio Bernard on a wheel route down the right side line to put the Bengals at the Patriots 6. But the Patriots defense stopped Bernard at the 1 on fourth-and-goal to keep the Bengals scoreless. But on the next drive, Cincinnati marched down the field again and Dalton ran it in from two yards on an option to the left to give Cincinnati a 7-3 lead.

The Patriots caught a huge break that changed momentum right before the half. With the Patriots facing third-and-18 at their 17, Bengals corner Dre Kirkpatrick was called for illegal contact with Chris Hogan. The play gave Brady another series of downs and new life.

Brady finished the drive executing the hurry-up perfectly, completing three passes to James White of seven, five and 15 yards, the final one capping the touchdown drive. Hogan also had a big reception of 39 yards.

The score gave the Patriots a 10-7 halftime lead.

But the Bengals responded to open the second half. Andy Dalton connected with A.J. Green for 23 yards on third-and-5 at the Cincinnati 40.

Closing Time note

Tom Brady is now just 5 wins from passing Peyton Manning as winningest QB in NFL history.

The Bengals forced the Patriots to punt and the Bengals appeared to connect on another big pass but rookie right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi was called for holding, negating a 15-yard completion to A.J. Green. On the next play, Hightower broke through the Bengals line and tackled Andy Dalton in the end zone for a safety. That made it 14-12 Bengals with 7:05 left in the third. 

The Patriots then respond with a 68 yard, five-play drive that ended with a Brady-to-Gronkowski touchdown of four yards and was celebrated with the first Gronk spike of the season. The drive was set up by two big completions to the tight end duo.

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Read More: Cincinnati Bengals, Gronk, James White, New England Patriots
Rob Gronkowski absent from practice Friday, Brandon Bolden returns 10.14.16 at 12:02 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski

FOXBORO — A day after proclaiming that he ‘felt like himself last week‘ in a win over the Browns, Rob Gronkowski was not spotted at Patriots practice Friday morning outside Gillette Stadium.

Gronkowski spoke from the podium Thursday and hinted that he was getting closer and closer to full strength. He then went out and participated in full pads practice.

As he has been since the hamstring injury in August, Gronkowski was listed Thursday as limited in practice.

That didn’t keep Gronkowski from catching five passes on seven targets for 109 yards in Sunday’s 33-13 win in Cleveland.

He was also a big force in New England’s 43-17 win over the Bengals on Oct. 5, 2014, when he caught six passes for 100 yards and a touchdown.

Also missing Friday was tight end Greg Scruggs (knee) and Jonathan Freeny (shoulder). Both have missed practice all week.

The Patriots did get a player back on the field Friday as running back Brandon Bolden, who missed practice Wednesday and Thursday, was back on the field. He injured his knee in the loss to the Bills on Oct. 2.

Read More: Cincinnati Bengals, Gronk, New England Patriots, nfl
Jonathan Kraft says Tom Brady, Pats ready to move forward after ‘patently unfair’ penalty 10.09.16 at 12:42 pm ET
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Jonathan Kraft

Jonathan Kraft

CLEVELAND — Jonathan Kraft is tired of talking about what happened in the past with Tom Brady. He just wants to move forward after the quarterback returned Sunday from his four-game Deflategate suspension.

Kraft was asked on the team’s pregame radio show about his feelings as the quarterback jogged onto the field with thousands of Patriots fans cheering.

“When Tom walked out on the field for warmups, there were no boos,” Kraft said. “It was a rousing ovation. That’s how many Patriots fans there. So, thanks to them. It’s a good feeling.

“It’s a nice day and there’s a lot of Patriots fans here. Two good things.”

Kraft said he hasn’t talked specifically to Brady about how he handled the four weeks away from the Patriots.

“I haven’t talked to him about that,” Kraft said. “Rest assured, no one was worried about him staying in shape and doing what he needs to do to hit the ground running.

“Not having Tom for four weeks was not something we enjoyed. But the biggest negative for me was having a guy on a pedestal going through this process and having his name associated with something that was patently unfair. It’s just great to have him on the field.

“We’ve talked about the whole thing a lot. Let’s talk about moving forward. It’s over, which is great. That wasn’t pleasant. Rising way, way above that was what Tom had to deal with was patently unfair. There’s nothing else to talk about it. It’s over. We have to take whatever emotions there are and move forward.”

Kraft was asked about reports that Rob Gronkowski appears to ready for a big game after a good week of practice that his hamstring is close to 100 percent, just time for Brady’s return.

“He’s the Rob Gronkowski I know and love every week,” Kraft said. “When he’s on the football field doing everything to the best of his abilities, he’s a very special football player. When you have Tom Brady running our offense with full complement of weapons, it’s a fun thing to watch and Rob is a big part of that.”

Read More: Cleveland Browns, Gronk, Jonathan Kraft, New England Patriots
Mike Petraglia, Chris Price on why Tom Brady could get Rob Gronkowski going, taking winless Browns seriously 10.05.16 at 2:26 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Yes, Tom Brady returned Wednesday to practice but there’s a lot more the Patriots have to address. Like getting Gronk going and containing an 0-4 Browns team that might be more dangerous than you think. WEEI’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price have your preview inside Gillette Stadium.

Read More: Chris Price, Cleveland Browns, Gronk, Mike Petraglia
Rob Gronkowski getting yelled at for his poor fantasy start: ‘Why did you draft me then, baby?’ at 1:14 pm ET
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Oct 2, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA;  New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) sits on the bench during the second half of the Buffalo Bills 16-0 win over the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Rob Gronkowski has been a puzzle to fantasy owners this year. (Winslow Townson-USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — It’s what the football world has come to. Rob Gronkowksi getting questioned about his poor statistical start and how that’s killing fantasy owners who drafted him.

Several fantasy owners drafted Gronkowski in late August and early September, knowing full well that he was battling a hamstring injury. But most wanted to stash him until he started or got out on the field.

Well, he made his debut on Sept. 22 against the Texans but was targeted just once with no catches.

Last Sunday, he played 39 snaps, when out for 13 passes but caught just one pass in the fourth quarter for 11 yards. Gronkowski has no TDs so far this season.

“Man, I know,” Gronkowski acknowledged Wednesday. “I can’t even go to the grocery store without getting yelled at. I’m like, ‘Why did you draft me then, baby.”

Will there eventually be a payoff?

“Hopefully,” said Gronkowski, who also noted earlier that he’s optimistic that this week might be his breakout week against the Browns.

His message to fantasy owners?

“It’s real football [I play]. That’s what I’m really only worried about, is going out there and getting the W so if we get the W and I have no catches, I’m satisfied, man, no matter what,” Gronkowski said.

Read More: Fantasy Football, Gronk, New England Patriots, nfl
Rob Gronkowski insists he’s not worried about hamstring: ‘Hopefully, this week now it’s GO time’ at 12:53 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski

FOXBORO — Rob Gronkowski believes his hamstring is getting better and better every day.

The tight end with just one catch in two games faced several questions Wednesday about whether or not his hamstring is holding him back on the field.

He gave a somewhat surprisingly honest answer.

“Obviously, it’s holding me back. I missed the first two games and didn’t play that much in the third and played more the fourth one. I’ve been progressing every single week, every single day and hopefully, this week now, it’s GO time,” Gronkowski said.

“I’m feeling good. Every single week, I’ve been improving a lot. I’m feeling good now.”

Is he worried about it?


And why is that?

“Because I’m feeling better every day,” he answered.

But Gronkowski was honest about what’s it’s been like trying to mentally deal with the fact that he hasn’t been as explosive as in the past.

“When you get injured, you kind of start back from Day 0,” he said. “Just got to work every single week. I’ve been progressing every single week and getting better. Today is another day to get better and we’ll see when I go out there.
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Read More: Gronk, New England Patriots, Rob Gronkowski,
Rob Gronkowski is super pumped that ‘Tom’s back at quarterback, baby’ at 12:16 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Perhaps no one is more excited about the return of Tom Brady to the practice field this week than Rob Gronkowski.

The man who has been limited to three targets and one catch of 11 yards over his first two games gets the man back who has been responsible for making him the most feared tight end in all of football the last six seasons.

“It’s always exciting. He’s our leader of our offense,” Gronkowski said Wednesday. “He’s a great player and it’s exciting to get TB back, man.”

Will the competition level rise with Brady back in the building and on the practice field?

“Competition level out there, no matter whoever is out there, is always high,” Gronk said. “This whole team is full of competitiveness. We’ve got players like Julian, Marty, all the offensive linemen. Everyone out there is competing all the time. Tom is another great example of a great leader that goes out there and competes every single day so, it’s always great to have another player come in like Tom, coming back and bringing the competition level up to another level, too.”

Gronkowski did not say if he’s thrown with Brady since he arrived back in the building Monday afternoon.

“We’ll be throwing at practice, today,” is all Gronkowski would confirm. “Everything’s the same every single week. Everyone’s always preparing the same, no matter who it is at quarterback. You’ve always got to prepare the same. I’ve got to prepare myself every single week. The demeanor has been the same throughout the building. We’ve got to prepare every single week to the max. It’s just like any other week except Tom’s back at quarterback, baby.”

Gronkowski, sounding a similar tone to Bill Belichick in the morning, said the team is more worried about solving the Browns defense than they are with the hype around Brady’s return or being concerned about getting back in sync with his QB.

“First off, we’ve got to focus on the Browns, obviously,” Gronkowski said, giving the 0-4 Browns some credit. “They’ve got a great team, a lot of hard-working players out there on their defense, lot of young guys that work hard, that keep on going after the ball. That’s what we’ve really got to focus on. As a team this week, we’ve just got to go out there focused on what we’ve got to do as an offense. We’ve been practicing with Tom for a while now so we’ve just got to go out there and do what we’ve done since the first day I’ve been here.”

Read More: Cleveland Browns, Gronk, New England Patriots, Rob Gronkowski
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