LANDOVER, Md. -- New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski entered Sunday's game with unfinished business, one trip to the end zone short of an NFL tight end receiving touchdown record.
After having his third score of last week's win over the Colts changed from a catch to a rushing touchdown, it didn't take long in the Patriots' 34-27 win over the Redskins for Gronkowski to set the all-time single-season mark. An 11-yard first quarter touchdown grab was his 14th of the season, passing Vernon Davis (2009) and Antonio Gates (2004), who shared the previous record of 13.
Following the play, Gronkowski, with an ease that comes along with something now so routine, emphatically spiked the ball into the end zone at FedEx Field. Almost immediately, as if realizing his mistake, Gronkowski played the role of outfielder, searching the sky for his cherished pigskin as it rebounded off the turf.
"I got the ball back and everything, so it was cool," Gronkowski said, later joking he'd use the record-setting ball to practice his spikes in the offseason. "It was cool to get a record and everything, but that really doesn't matter. We got the team victory."
Yet his record-breaking score was hardly the highlight of Gronkowski's afternoon. He can mark himself down for an assist, in fact, after a catch across the middle and what looked to be a sure-fire tackle along the sidelines by two Redskins defenders turned into a 49-yard gain once Gronkowski shook both adversaries free.
"There was no whistles or nothing, I was just running," Gronkowski said. "When I don't hear a whistle I just keep playing."
Gronkowski tumbled to the ground after the completion, which set up his touchdown strike on the next play, but was ruled not down by contact.
"[Quarterback] Tom [Brady] just made a great throw. The defender was right there. He put it where no one could get it besides me," Gronkowski said. "I just made the catch, and I just noticed that the guy didn't touch me at all. So I just got up, started running, and just happened to spin off a couple guys and everything."
Not surprisingly, Gronkowski still wasn't done. He added a 37-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter, taking an impromptu "Lambeau leap" into the stands after the play.
"I don't know. I just do things on the spot. I never thought of that before," Gronkowski responded when asked if his celebration was preconceived. "I just saw the guy in the New England jersey in the first row. So, gotta give him some props. Gotta give him some love."
And as quickly as he sets NFL records, the easy-going tight end with a growing celebrity will only continue to have the kudos flow in from fans in return.