Brady and Gronk remain a winning combination for Super Bowl champions
TAMPA, Florida – Two touchdown connections in the Super Bowl, then two more in a season opener.
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski’s long-running show continues with no real signs of slowing down.
The prolific duo – now in their second season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after nine very successful years in New England – edged Steve Young and Jerry Rice to third place on the NFL career roster for regular season TDs by a passing combo in the final 31-29 victory of the week over the Dallas Cowboys.
Brady threw for 379 yards and four touchdowns, including a pair to Gronkowski, who received a touchdown pass from the 44-year-old quarterback 86 times during the tight end’s stellar career with the Patriots and Bucs.
Hall of Fame members Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison (112) and Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates (89) have combined to reach the end zone more often during the regular season. Including the playoffs, Brady and Gronkowski have done it 100 times.
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“It’s cool. I haven’t really realized that yet,” said Gronkowski, reflecting on the milestone.
Instead, the 11th-year pro who came out of retirement in 2020 to join Brady at Tampa Bay is focused on doing whatever he can to help the Bucs become the first team to repeat as the Super Champion. Bowl since Brady led the 2003 and 2004 Patriots to consecutive titles.
The Bucs (1-0) welcome their NFC rival South Atlanta (0-1) on Sunday. The Falcons failed to score a touchdown in a 32-6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I think a lot of people are caught up with Gronk’s personality and don’t see the worker,” Bucs coach Bruce Arians said, adding it’s easy to see why the 6-foot-6 tight end inches and 265 pounds has such a good relationship with seven-time Super Bowl winner Brady.
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“He’s working his tail,” Arians said. “I mean, he’s here early, he’s leaving late. He doesn’t neglect anything in his preparation. He’s meticulous, just like Tom, and I think that’s why he’s one of Tom’s favorite players.”
Although he had to lose a year of rust and learn a new offensive system, Gronkowski finished the 2020 regular season with 45 receptions for 623 yards and seven touchdowns. He had eight catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns last week, including two for 26 yards on the winning field Brady led in the last minute.
“It’s amazing the chemistry they have,” Arians said.
“The only way to stay on top of your game is to try and find ways to take it to another level,” Gronkowski noted. “This is how you continue in this league.”
The Bucs have a nine-game winning streak on Sunday. Including their Super Bowl run, they have scored at least 30 points in eight in a row. The streak includes two wins over the Falcons, who led 17-0 at halftime before Brady rallied the Bucs to a 31-27 road win in December.
Two weeks later, the Bucs won 44-27 in Tampa.
The eight-game winning streak while scoring over 30 points is the longest streak in NFL history. The only other teams to do so were the 2007 and 2010 Patriots, both under Brady.
Arthur Smith, the first-year Falcons coach, isn’t making any bold predictions.
“Not many people slowed it down. But it’s a football game. It’s a challenge every week,” Smith said.
“There is a graveyard of guys who were arrogant about Tom Brady. No one did it better than him,” added the coach. “We have all the respect in the world. There’s a reason he won seven Super Bowls.”
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After setting career highs with 72 receptions for 786 yards and four touchdowns last season, Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage was expected to be in the line for even more this season. With the Julio Jones trade to Tennessee, Gage was considered the second receiver behind Calvin Ridley.
Gage is still awaiting his first catch after being shut out on two targets against the Eagles. He insists he’s not worried about his role.
“Same old approach for me,” Gage said. “I’m here everyday to improve. Every once in a while you’re going to have games like this. As long as I do everything I’m supposed to do and what the coach asks me to do, I know the ball will end. by finding myself. That’s not nothing that worries me. “
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Matt Ryan had a quick response when a reporter mentioned that the Falcons gave Tom Brady’s New England Patriots a 28-3 lead in Super Bowl 51 after the 2016 season. The Patriots won 34- 28.
“I’ve never heard it,” Ryan said, laughing when asked about it. The follow-up suggestion that beating Brady and the Buccaneers could help make up for that Super Bowl loss sparked another laugh.
“Look, of course we want to win this game, but that won’t make up for that,” Ryan said. “It’s one of the things that is in your past, but it doesn’t affect this week.”