TAMPA, Fla. -- It took him six games to get there -- and when he crossed the goal line, he had to spike the ball with his left hand because of an injured shoulder -- but tight end Rob Gronkowski scored his first touchdown as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a 38-10 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
It came on a third-and-6 with 1 minute, 7 seconds to go in the first half. Gronkowski lined up slightly in front of tight end Cameron Brate on the left side of the formation. Brate ran a quick out while quarterback Tom Brady found Gronkowski in the left corner of the end zone on a back-shoulder fade route, working against Packers safety Adrian Amos.
Prior to Sunday, Gronkowski had just 12 catches for 140 receiving yards this season, but Amos said he wasn't surprised with the tight end's score, even with his slow start.
"Not really. That's Gronk. That's who he is," Amos said. "He shielded defenders well with his body, but D has to do a better job all around."
Brady, who lured Gronkowski, 31, out of retirement after a year away from football, embraced his longtime favorite target in the end zone to celebrate.
"I thought Tom and Rob had great connections on crossing routes," Bucs coach Bruce Arians said. "We got the matchup we were looking for on the fade ball. Gronk did a heck of a job adjusting to that ball and getting the touchdown. I just wish he could have spiked it with his right shoulder, but his right shoulder's hurt so ... he missed some good spikes, but he made some huge, huge plays [for] us."
It was Gronkowski's first touchdown catch since Dec. 9, 2018, at the Miami Dolphins. It was the 91st touchdown together for Brady and Gronkowski, moving them past Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates for third-most touchdowns by a QB-receiving target in NFL history (postseason included).
"He played great today -- got to try and give him and Cam the ball, the tight ends," Brady said. "They can really help us out; it will really take pressure off of the receivers. They'll just keep building and growing."
Gronkowski finished with five catches and a season-high and team-leading 78 receiving yards. In addition to his touchdown, he had a 31-yard reception on a crossing route -- the longest play of the game for either team -- which set up a 50-yard field goal for Ryan Succop. Four of Gronkowski's catches resulted in gains of 12 or more yards, with all but one resulting in a touchdown or first down.
"It speaks volumes for him and he's playing with a bum shoulder, so the blocking, the receiving, he's just one of the best all-around tight ends to ever play the game," Arians said. "He's in good football shape right now. We just got to continue to watch his snap count."