FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 06: Dan Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots is tackled by Kenny Phillips #21 of the New York Giants on November 6, 2011 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots 24-20. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Another week, another loss, and another game ball that I'm a little bit more than reluctant to give away.
Still, had the Patriots won yesterday, which until there was about 20 seconds left seemed like a very real possibility, I would have been more than happy to award a game ball. And this week, while Wes Welker and Brandon Spikes made arguments, I think the award belongs to Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who pulls in the award for the first time this year.
Gronkowski pulled in a total of eight catches for 101 yards and a touchdown. Gronk was Tom Brady's safety valve on offense, but was also able to win one on one match-ups with defensive backs down the field, running excellent routes in the process. Sure, he did have one pretty ugly drop, but played a phenomenal game for the most part.
Gronkowski was also involved on all but one of the Patriots scoring drives. On the Patriots final drive, when they pulled ahead 20-17 with less than two minutes to go, Gronkowski hauled in two more grabs for 33 yards. He also snagged the go ahead touchdown on fourth and eight with 1:36 to go.
On the year, Gronkowski has 44 receptions for 596 yards and six touchdowns in eight games. He currently leads all AFC tight ends in both yards and receptions, and trails only the Saints' Jimmy Graham in the NFL in both categories. As great as Gronkowski's rookie campaign was, it has become clear that he's now an elite player at the position in just his sophomore season.