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2019 AFC Championship Game: Patriots got Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan when they needed them most

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Despite a down year production wise, Chris Hogan and Rob Gronkowski came through when the Patriots needed them the most.

NFL: AFC Championship-Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It feels like just yesterday that Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan would combine to catch 15 passes for 244 yards and three touchdowns in last year’s Super Bowl loss against the Philadelphia Eagles. However, those numbers didn’t seem to carry over into the 2018 season as the New England Patriots got limited offensive productions from the two stars this past season.

Gronkowski had just five catches in his last four games heading into Sunday’s AFC Championship against the Kansas City Chiefs, while Hogan had failed to record a single catch four of the Patriots’ first 17 games of the season. Although they didn’t perform to their usual self, the two carried themselves professionally and helped out the Patriots in whatever way they could — most prominently by blocking and opening up areas for others to excel.

However, when the going got tough on Sunday in Kansas City and Tom Brady needed a clutch play, he repeatedly found #15 and #87.

Mixed in with some big catches by Julian Edelman, Gronkowski — turning in six receptions for 79 yards — made a huge catch up the sidelines on a one-on-one ball against Chiefs safety Eric Berry. The 3rd and 5 conversion then led to a Rex Burkhead go-ahead touchdown with 39 seconds left. Gronkowski would then make another big catch on a third-and-long in overtime that allowed the Patriots to keep the ball and score to end the game.

Hogan also made some big catches versus Kansas City — including his incredible one-handed grab on a 3rd and 8 with just over six minutes left in the game and the Patriots trailing 21-17. The 30-year old, who finished the day with five receptions for 45 yards, also turned in a big reception on the first play of overtime when he kept the ball moving down field on a little out route.

Hogan and Gronkowski’s actions this season speak wonders about the type of players and people they truly are. The two exemplify what it means to be a ‘Patriot’: never complaining with the lack of targets, they stuck with it and continued to work hard and put the team first. And without either of the two in Sunday’s AFC Championship game, I am not too sure the Patriots would be heading to their third straight Super Bowl.

With retirement looming once again and Super Bowl 53 possibly being Gronkowski’s last game ever, I am sure he will be a big and crucial piece yet again — just like he was against the Chiefs.