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As tight-end Rob Gronkowski prepares to play his final game with the New England Patriots – a 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII – he was asked about his career’s favorite catches.
He took a short break before sharing insights into what he valued most in a reception.
“I like the one-handed handles. I remember all the one-handed handles – they are always memorable,” he said.
“It is difficult to make one-handed. You always train two [hands] and you do not want to make one-handed. But you only make them when really necessary and you can only reach the ball. You remember them because it is rare. ”
That’s why Gronkowski highlighted a week 16 touchdown catch against the Buffalo Bills in the 2017 season and a 10-yard grab against the Denver Broncos in the division round in the playoffs after the 2011 season as two of his most memorable.
So when compiling a list of Gronkowski’s greatest grips, difficulty is obviously a top consideration.
Coupling grips are also a big part of it.
Gronkowski’s 29-yard dive reception in Super Bowl LIII – with Rams linebacker Cory Littleton at the back of the hip and quarterback Tom Brady delivering a perfect ball – set up for the Patriots’ only touchdown in the game.
Then, in the Buccaneers’ 31-9 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV, Gronkowski caught up with two touchdown receptions (8 and 17 yards), though they did not fall into the category of other jaw-dropping catches over his career.
During his Patriots days with Gronkowski, Brady had often noticed how the future Hall of Famer “just shows up in the biggest moments.” That’s why Brady had rated Gronkowski’s work in Super Bowl XLIX among his favorite.
“In 2014, I caught the touchdown [Seahawks linebacker] KJ Wright. Then we hit him on a crossing route under pressure, but only Gronk makes that play with his length and speed. Then I threw him another, call it a deep stop route, on KJ Wright again, ”Brady had remembered.
“I have thrown a lot at him over the years. He has been so reliable, consistent. “
Then there is what Gronkowski does after the catch that also justifies consideration among his best work, where defenders often jump off him or hang on while he throws himself forward with force.
A 44-yarder in a 46-23 win over the Carolina Panthers on November 15, 2020, fits well into that category – Gronkowski wriggles to get the initial tight window grip and then secure Jeremy Chinn jump off him while driving in further 16 yards after catch.
It was a great game, but does it rank among the top 10 at all over Gronkowski’s very best?
Editor’s note: Gronkowski announced his retirement from the NFL for the second time on Tuesday. This story is updated from the original, which was published on January 30, 2019.
November 2, 2014 – Patriots 43, Broncos 21: A leaping one-handed catch between several Broncos defenders in a home win. This game defied physics because Gronkowski’s momentum was heading in the opposite direction from where he caught the ball. The 20-yard grip came on the goal line with 14 minutes, 28 seconds left of the fourth quarter, and Gronkowski was narrowly judged before crossing the goal zone. It was so close that Patriots coach Bill Belichick challenged the decision. On the sidelines, microphones picked up Brady, who approached Gronkowski and said, “How the hell did you catch that?”
January 14, 2012 – Patriots 45, Broncos 10: One of Gronkowski’s favorites he put out in the back left corner of the end zone and first made contact with the ball with only his right hand before bringing his left hand in to secure it as he crashed to the ground for a 10-yard score for to give the Patriots a 14-0 lead en route to a blowout victory.
November 16, 2014 – Patriots 42, Colts 20: An uncommon mix of power and speed that makes Gronkowski so rare defined his 26-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Colts. He spun away from an initial tackle, then accelerated and drove past and through several defenders to the final touchdown in a 22-point victory.
The incredible touchdown from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski achieving a top 5 catch in the 2017 season pic.twitter.com/FIN8EFLYo4
– Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) December 24, 2017
December 24, 2017 – Patriots 37, Bills 16: This was one of Gronkowski’s all-time favorites – a 17-yard touchdown touchdown against the Bills, where he stretched out his right hand as safety Micah Hyde was draped over him as they ran towards the left pylon. The ball was in perfect condition and it was a catch that few other than Gronkowski could make.
February 5, 2019 – Patriots 13, Rams 3: The 29-yard line down the left wing to establish the game’s only touchdown – made it even more impressive considering Gronkowski was playing through considerable pain, which he later quoted when announcing his first retirement.
August 26, 2010 – Rams 36, Patriots 35: In his rookie season and playing in the preseason, Gronkowski caught a pass around the 5-yard line and pulled a Rams defender into the goal zone from there while jumping on one foot. In many ways, it was a foretaste of what was to come during his career. When he reflected on it, Gronkowski did not rate it that highly because he focused more on the actual catch and said, “I remember that. It was a good game, but it was still a normal catch.”
November 18, 2013 – Panthers 24, Patriots 20: Gronkowski beat the press coverage against the Panthers and then pulled three defenders into the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown in a back-and-forth classic on Monday Night Football. Just pure will.
November 21, 2011 – Patriots 34, Chiefs 3: A 19-yard catch-and-run touchdown against the Chiefs, where he finished with a half-flip that landed him on his back in the end zone. He simply would not be denied.
December 9, 2011 – Patriots 34, Commanders 27: An unforgettable game that highlighted his athleticism, Gronkowski remained on his feet along the sideline despite the presence of several Commanders defenders, who he shrugged for a 50-yard win.
October 4, 2020 – Buccaneers 38, Chargers 31: A 29-yard catch with linebacker Kyzir White over him – which was essentially a 50-50 ball – and Gronkowski still came down with it. It was a classic example of how Gronkowski was often open, even when he was closely covered – a regular part of his career.
11. January 24, 2016 – Broncos 20, Patriots 18: Two games that fall into the “clutch situation” category came in the AFC Championship Game in Denver, where Gronkowski snatched a 40-yard rainbow from Brady down the right seam during a lively final touchdown drive that culminated in him splitting double coverage for to come back for a 4-yard score to close the gap to 20-18.
February 12, 2015 – Patriots 28, Seahawks 24: One of Brady’s favorites as Gronkowski took a step up the right sideline at Wright in the Super Bowl and reached his big hands up into the end zone to pull it in for a 22-yard touchdown.
December 13, 2020 – Buccaneers 47, Lions 7: A 33-yard touchdown catch with safety Tracy Walker III running step by step down the right sideline with Gronkowski … only to have Gronkowski stretch his arms out at the last minute to snatch it out of the air “Inspector Gadget “-style. Walker could only clap his hands in frustration.
14. November 15, 2020 – Buccaneers 46, Panthers 23: He was closely covered by Chinn, one of the top players from the 2020 draft class, and not only got the controversial catch, but then made Chinn jump off, allowing him to run another 16 yards on a 44-yard win.
October 26, 2014 – Patriots 51, Bears 23: His 46-yard touchdown against the Bears showed his powerful stiff arm as he blasted a defensive back and then ran everyone else to the goal zone.
16. October 18, 2020 – Buccaneers 38, Packers 10: Gronkowski’s back-shoulder touchdown catch on a high-bow ball from Brady was made to look routine, but he still had to adjust his body and keep his feet within bounds along the left sideline. A reflection of Gronkowski’s ballerina feet.
In summary of Gronkowski’s work, Brady was exuberant in his praise.
“He’s very proud of what he does and takes it very seriously. We ask him to do a lot of things,” Brady said. “I think it’s impressive to weigh 270 pounds, to play pretty much every single game, to win every game during the match against 300 pound defensive ends, 240 pounds defensive ends. We ask him to pass the block. Then we ask him to to run routes and win against linebackers, win against safeties, sometimes win against corner kicks.He’s a physical freak.
“For him to excel as he has done, I think he and Tony Gonzalez are the two greatest tight-ends who have ever played the game.”