By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Last year, when Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski passed Steve Young and Jerry Rice to move into second place all time for most touchdowns by a quarterback and receiver, it looked to be a nice accomplishment in and of itself. Surely, though, Brady and Gronkowski had no shot of reaching the No. 1 spot.
Yet after five-plus quarters of football in 2021 … are we sure?
Brady capped a six-play, 75-yard opening drive on Sunday by hanging in the pocket, absorbing a massive hit from a free rusher before delivering a strike to Gronkowski for a 20-yard touchdown.
BRADY ➡️ GRONK TD
Never gets old 🔥
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 19, 2021
Brady was strip-sacked on his next possession, and the Bucs punted on their third. But after taking over following a failed Atlanta fourth-down play, Brady and the Bucs capitalized with a 46-yard scoring drive. It was capped off with — what else — a touchdown pass to Gronkowski.
— NFL (@NFL) September 19, 2021
That one required a diving effort from Gronkowski, who’s done that once or twice in his career.
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) September 19, 2021
In under 16 minutes of football, Brady and Gronkowski had themselves a pair of touchdowns — and that was coming off last week’s two-touchdown week for the duo.
(Tom Brady, 44-year-old freak, would go ahead and throw a third touchdown just before halftime, and he finished th game with five touchdowns. He now has nine touchdowns in two games.)
The two scores on Sunday got Gronkowski’s touchdown total up to four on the young season; he had just three touchdowns in 13 games in the 2018 season.
The connections also increased Brady and Gronkowski’s touchdown total to 102, including regular season and playoffs. They’re now just 12 touchdowns away from 114, which would tie Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison for most of all time. Logically that makes them 13 touchdowns away from setting the all-time record. (Brady and Gronk would already be one touchdown closer, if only Brady hadn’t thrown a pass backward to Gronkowski for a touchdown that went down as a rushing score in 2011.)
Considering Brady is 44 years old, and considering Gronkowski’s on a one-year deal and has already retired once, it still is a long shot to happen. They’ll need about five or six more this year in order to make it a realistic target next year.
But with Brady and Gronkowski connecting for four touchdowns in a little over five quarters of work this season, and with the way Brady’s seemed to be on somewhat of a mission to annihilate any and every record that doesn’t belong to him, it’s suddenly become somewhat of a reality from two of the best to ever play their respective positions.