Gronkowski could have retired and many would have considered him the most dominant tight end ever. At his peak he was an absolute force, not just catching the ball from Tom Brady but blocking as well. Gronkowski came out of retirement last season to follow Brady to Tampa Bay, started slow but came on strong and had a big Super Bowl.
Gronkowski added to his Hall of Fame legacy last season. It looks like he’s going to add a lot more this season.
Those hopes were dashed in a disastrous finish that saw the Bucs score 20 points during the final quarter en route to a 48-25 win over Atlanta on Sunday.
“Everybody feels sick when you see that box score, but there were some positives,” Falcons first-year coach Arthur Smith said.
Coming off a 32-6 drubbing to the Philadelphia Eagles in the season opener a week ago, Atlanta (0-2) rallied from an 18-point deficit.
Matt Ryan threw TD passes to Calvin Ridley and Cordarrelle Patterson before running for a 2-point conversion to make it 28-25 with 1:34 left in the third quarter.
The Falcons got the ball back at their 4 with 13 minutes to go, a chance for a long go-ahead drive. Instead they failed to convert on a third-and-inches at the 13. After a 33-yard punt, it took three plays before Tom Brady hooked up on an 8-yard pass to Chris Godwin and the Bucs’ advantage was 10.
Got it to a three-point game, and we had some momentum, really did,” Ryan said. “Credit to them, they changed the tide. They did a good job in the fourth quarter putting us away.”
Tampa Bay sealed the deal with a pair of interception returns for touchdowns by Mike Edwards.
“This is a message for our guys, our young guys,” Ryan said. “It could be frustrating, but it’s a wasted opportunity if we don’t learn from it and we don’t correct it. Experience is great for everyone.”
Ryan was 35 for 46 for 300 yards, with two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Brady threw for 276 yards and five touchdowns, but Atlanta got good pressure at times on the seven-time Super Bowl champion and finished with three sacks.
The Falcons will look to end a seven-game skid at the New York Giants next Sunday.
Three of those losses came against the Bucs (2-0), who’ve outscored their NFC South rivals 124-62 over the past 10 quarters of those outings.
Brady is 44 years old. Among all quarterbacks at least 44 years of age in NFL history before this season, there were 14 passing touchdowns. Combined. That’s it.
Brady has nine passing touchdowns through two games.
Brady was great yet again on Sunda, throwing five touchdowns. When the Atlanta Falcons were challenging the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and cut the lead to 28-25, Brady his tampa bay Chris Godwin for a score to take all the momentum away. The Bucs had two defensive touchdowns after that and won 48-25. If you had no idea how old Brady was, you’d guess he was 34. Maybe 24. He shows absolutely no signs of slowing down at an age in which every other quarterback was retired or washed up.
The single-season touchdown record is 55 by Peyton Manning. Brady seems like he’s taking aim at it.
And why wouldn’t the Buccaneers let Brady throw as much as he wants? He has endless receiving threats. He’s passing as well as ever. We have never seen anything quite like this in any sport. Jack Nicklaus won The Masters at age 46 and Phil Mickelson won a PGA Championship at age 50, but that’s one weekend and they didn’t have defensive ends trying to plant them in the turf. There’s really no comparison to an athlete in his mid-40s playing at Brady’s level in a violent team sport.
Perhaps at some point a running back will get a touchdown or two, or the Bucs will face a defense that doesn’t let Brady throw touchdowns at will. But right now, Brady is on pace for 76.5 touchdowns. That won’t continue, but perhaps Manning should be a little concerned.