On Sunday, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady hooked up with tight end Rob Gronkowski for a regular-season best nine catches, including Gronkowski's first touchdown of this season. It was a vintage Gronkowski effort and one that reminded onlookers of why he's among the most dominant players in the league when healthy.
On Monday morning, speaking with the "Dennis and Callahan" show on WEEI sports radio in Boston, Brady further dissected Gronk's effort, explaining the mismatch he presents opposing defenses.
"He's one of the best players in the NFL," he said. "We really haven't had him for a long time and we've learned to play without him, but it's obvious when he's in there [that] he adds a different element to what we're trying to do and that's why he's such a good player.
"He worked really hard to get back to this point and after he's got a few games under him and he's got his football legs back, hopefully he can continue to do it," he continued. "It was a big spark for us yesterday and he really came out making some big plays for us on third down, some drive starters when we got things going into the drive."
As Brady also noted, Gronkowski forces a defense to alter the way that it covers the rest of the Patriots' pass-catchers.
"He's a tough matchup because of his quickness, his strength and his size, he's tough to cover," he said. "And when the extra coverage goes to him, that means there's less coverage on the other guys."
The team's 55 points on Sunday were a season high and perhaps a more accurate representation of what this offense will look like going forward than the group that struggled out of the gate.
It was the healthiest the group had been all season, with Gronkowski being joined by Danny Amendola among the top pass-catching targets.
"I think that's what we all looked forward to," Brady said of the offense. "We all knew at the beginning part of the season there were going to be some growing pains based on Gronk being out, and Danny getting injured in Week 1, Shane [Vereen] getting injured in Week 1, we said, 'OK, we're going to have to figure out ways to win these games' and we kind of did that for the most part.' We had a few opportunities where we didn't win, but we still had a chance, and now we get some guys that we're really counting on to be big parts of our offense."
EXTRA POINT: Brady also discussed the upcoming bye week, stressing that it isn't a full vacation from football, but rather an opportunity for the team to learn and improve while also resting up.
"It's nice to get away for the mental and physical break. I'm not sure what we're going to do, but there's a lot of football going on still at this point, so it's not like it's a holiday. There's a lot of self evaluation that you do and trying to get ahead on Carolina and trying to get ahead on the rest of the schedule. There's quite a bit to do, and I'm excited to get to doing that."