BOSTON (CBS) — Rob Gronkowski remains very low on the list of potential concerns for the Patriots. But like the rest of the team, the All-Pro tight end needs to be better than he was in Thursday’s season-opening 42-27 loss to the Chiefs if the Patriots offense wants to dominate like it still can without Julian Edelman.
Gronkowski caught just two passes from Tom Brady for 33 yards, despite being targeted six times. He consistently had trouble getting open when lined up against Chiefs All-Pro safety Eric Berry, who was spectacular in coverage all night. For a player who mostly draws double coverage and can even beat that at times, it could be cause for concern that Gronkowski struggled one-on-one, even against a player as good as Berry.
The tight end kept things simple when he spoke to reporters after the game, giving the Chiefs credit for a superior effort.
“They outplayed us. Starting with myself, we just got to go back, look at the film, see what we did wrong and just work hard,” said Gronkowski. “Go get back to the practice field, get our corrections right and just keep grinding.”
One of the game’s early bad omens came when Gronkowski appeared to catch a pass from Brady in the end zone for a touchdown. The replay review showed that the ball hit the ground before he could secure the ball and complete the catch process. It was a tough play for anyone to make, but Gronkowski was in position to make it and could not execute.
The Patriots turned the ball over on downs two plays later, failing to convert on fourth-and-1 at the Chiefs’ 10-yard line.
“Those are always crucial going for it on fourth down. You got to get it,” Gronkowski said. “[The Chiefs] played well, made the stops, they outplayed us.”
Gronkowski didn’t make his first catch of the game until there was 10:44 remaining in the second quarter, ultimately falling short of the kind of impact he will have to make in order for the Patriots offense to be as prolific as it has been in the 28-year-old’s career.
He will also need to be relied upon more on third down, as both of the tight end’s catches came in those situations. But the Patriots went 5-for-15 overall on third and Brady will likely only look his way more in the future.
Echoing Brady’s sentiments that the Patriots didn’t dig deep enough against the Chiefs, Gronk had a simple explanation for the Patriots’ need to improve. They need to prepare better and work harder than they did for this one.
“It is what it is, what happened,” Gronkowski said, “and we just got to keep working hard so we can be more prepared.”