BOSTON (CBS) — Conflicting reports about exactly why Rob Gronkowski remains off the field continue to circulate, just as a report from Friday which said Gronkowski and Danny Amendola would be playing Sunday night proved to be inaccurate.
So without the team’s two best receivers, someone needed to step up for the Patriots. That someone turned out to be both Kenbrell Thompkins and Julian Edelman, who at least for a night made the continued absences of the star tight end and wide receiver seem manageable.
Thompkins’ night began with a drop when a pass hit him right on the hands, and he would have another big drop later in the game. However, those were mere footnotes by the end of the night due to the rookie’s big game.
Thompkins finished the night with a team-high 127 yards on six receptions, and that included an incredible show of athleticism on a touchdown reception while diving out of bounds.
That may not even have been the biggest play of the night for the undrafted rookie out of Cincinnati. That honor may belong to the grab he made over the middle of the field on a third-and-19. He made the catch despite William Moore flying at him like a missile, keeping a drive alive and preventing the Patriots from being forced to punt out of their own end zone. On the very next play, LeGarrette Blount broke free for a 46-yard touchdown run that gave the Patriots a 10-point lead and changed the game.
With Thompkins excelling, the Patriots didn’t rely on Edelman much early on, but he came on huge in the second half. He finished the night with seven catches for 118 yards, the highest total of his career.
On a third-and-8 from the New England 38, one play after Thompkins dropped what should have been a first-down catch, Edelman caught a Brady pass and took off for a gain of 44 yards. Just like Thompkins’ big play immediately led to a touchdown, so did Edelman’s, with Brady sending a pass on the very next snap to Thompkins in the front corner of the end zone.
Thanks to Thompkins and Edelman, Tom Brady topped the 300-yard mark for the first time of the season. Of his 316 yards, 77.5 percent of it came from the duo of Thompkins and Edelman and just 71 yards coming from the rest of the team.
Eventually, they’ll need Gronkowski and Amendola if they hope to contend for a Super Bowl. But for now, with effort like this out of guys like Thompkins and Edelman, the Patriots are getting enough to win games.