USA Today Sports

Rob Gronkowski showed his supremacy over Travis Kelce with dominant fourth quarter

Alex Reimer
October 15, 2018 - 11:02 am

Rob Gronkowski showed up when it mattered in the Patriots’ thrilling 43-40 victory over the Chiefs Sunday, catching two passes from Tom Brady for 81 yards during New England’s final two scoring drives. Travis Kelce, meanwhile, was blanked during the second half. The best tight end in football still resides in Foxboro.

The Gronk-Kelce battle received lots of hype heading into Sunday night’s heavyweight contest between the AFC’s top two teams, with several analysts saying the Chiefs’ tight end had surpassed Gronkowski. “Monday Night Football” broadcaster Booger McFarland was the leader of the movement, proclaiming two weeks ago that Kelce is more explosive.

Kelce recorded five receptions for 61 yards in the first two quarters, including a sweet no-look pass from Patrick Maholmes. But Kelce, who has three touchdown catches this season, was shut down in the red zone. Dont’a Hightower made it to a point to bump him at the line of scrimmage, which impeded his ability to break into the middle of the field. Maholmes’ second interception of the game came when he tried to force the ball to Kelce in the end zone. Instead, the football found Duron Harmon. 

The Chiefs settled for three field goals in the first half, which was the difference in the affair.

While Gronk had only one catch through the first three quarters, he played a big role in the blocking game. The Patriots gained 173 yards on the ground, with Sony Michel leading the way with 106 yards and two touchdowns. On San Diego radio last week, ex-Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich said Gronkowski’s blocking ability gives him a definitive edge over Kelce.

“I mean, I’ve played against Kelce, and I’ve thrown him around like he’s a little doll,” Ninkovich said on “Hardwick & Richards”. “The guy doesn’t want to block, so when you’re a tight end and you don’t want to block, you’re not really a tight end. I haven’t played in a year and a half. I could probably beat him right now easily in a run block game.”

The highlight for Gronk came on the Patriots' second-to-last drive, when he stiff-armed safety Ron Parker en route to a 42-yard catch. The play instantaneously got New England into scoring territory. Gronkowski's 39-yard reception on the next possession was the 500th of his career. 

Kelce ran his mouth after the game, saying he doesn’t think Gillette Stadium is an intimidating place to play. But something clearly affected him in the second half. While Gronk was streaking down the middle of the field through the Chiefs’ defense late in the fourth quarter, Kelce was a bystander. 

With two big catch-and-runs, Gronk showed he’s still a dynamic force in the passing game. Just as the Patriots aren't ready to give up AFC supremacy, neither is Gronkowski.