Brady to Gronk: A connection at its best in crunch time

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In the on-field excitement following the New England Patriots' last-second victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night, quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski came together chest to chest.

Gronkowski then said something to Brady, which sparked a positive, passionate reaction.

"Are you kidding me? Forever! You know that!" Brady responded, taking both of his hands off Gronkowski's head and then whacking him on the shoulder pads in jubilation.

Gronkowski didn't get into details on what he told Brady at the time, but it was uplifting to him. He called it a "great moment."

There have been many of those between Brady and Gronkowski during games, with Sunday night adding another to what has been an impressive nine-year connection.

What Gronkowski might have appreciated more than anything was Brady looking his way twice on the final two drives (42 and 39 yards) despite how quiet he had been as a pass-catcher through the first three quarters, in part because the Chiefs often devoted multiple defenders to slowing him down.

As Brady said after the game, "I'll keep throwing it to him in the biggest moments."

Gronkowski, as he often does, delivered in a big way, in addition to solid blocking in the running game that sparked plays in the play-action passing game. The Patriots will be counting on more of the same as they prepare to visit the Chicago Bears on Sunday.

The last time Gronkowski visited Soldier Field, in 2010, he was a rookie. Gronkowski contributed five catches for 43 yards and a touchdown in a 36-7 victory that day, as his 7-yard touchdown catch opened the scoring and sparked what quickly turned into a rout.

That was the seventh touchdown catch of his career from Brady, and the two have since upped that total to 76. A close friendship has developed since that time, as has a special football bond that Brady has grown to appreciate.

"I'd vote for Gronk 100 [times] out of 100. He's a spectacular player, made some huge plays when we needed them [Sunday]," Brady said in his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI, when asked about the debate over the best tight end in the NFL.

"He's getting punt-viced on some of his routes -- literally just running into two bodies. They make it tough for him.”

Such constant attention could be wearing on Gronkowski, who still looked exhausted when he met with reporters late Monday afternoon (he wasn't available immediately after the game). Gronkowski has also been playing through injury, with the club listing him with an ankle ailment that has limited his participation in practice in recent weeks.

The wear-and-tear isn't a new development, nor is the extra attention from opponents. It seems every year Gronkowski is asked about his frustration level, with multiple defenders making contact with him after 5 yards from the line of scrimmage.

"We're competing, and when your number is called, you have to go make plays. You gotta go play football," he said Monday. "I just have to find ways to get open."

Brady, no doubt, will find him. Especially in crunch time.

"He's doing a great job," Brady said. "I'm just so proud of him."