|FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — When the going gets tough, Tom Brady goes to Rob Gronkowski.
The Patriots tight end had only three catches against the Chiefs on Sunday night, but he had big gains on each of the team’s final two drives to help New England beat previously undefeated Kansas City 43-40.
Gronkowski had a 42-yard catch and run to start a drive with under four minutes left that helped set up a Stephen Gostkowski field goal. Then, after Patrick Mahomes connected with Tyreek Hill on a 75-yard touchdown, Brady found the big tight end for 39 yards to the Kansas City 9.
Gostkowski ended it with a 28-yard chip shot.
“We kept fighting. We stayed strong,” Gronkowski said Monday. “It was a great night, a great football game.”
A five-time Super Bowl champion and three-time NFL MVP, Brady has had no trouble finding receivers in his 18-year career. But Gronkowski is one of his favorites, including 76 TD passes from the Patriots quarterback — nearly twice as many as the next most prolific Brady target.
“He made a big play. He’s been making a lot of those his career,” Brady said. “I’ll keep throwing to him in the biggest moments.”
Gronkowski had one catch in the first quarter and then wasn’t targeted again until the fourth as the Chiefs double-covered him for much of the game. But on first and 10 from their own 21 with 3:50 to play, Brady hit Gronkowski for 42 yards to set up a 50-yard field goal that made it 40-33.
After Mahomes and Hill tied it, Brady dropped back from the Chiefs 48 and saw his 6-foot-6 tight end running one-on-one with cornerback Josh Shaw. He lofted a long pass into Gronkowski’s arms; it took Shaw another 15 yards to bring him down.
“It was a really good throw,” said Patriots receiver Chris Hogan, who had catches of 42 and 19 yards on back-to-back plays during the Patriots’ last touchdown drive. “I knew that with Rob being there, he had a really good chance at getting the ball. He ran a great route and set the offense up for a game-winning field goal.”
With three catches for 97 yards, Gronkowski finished the game with 500 career receptions — just the NFL’s 15th tight end to reach the milestone. He did it in 108 games, the fourth-fastest in league history; he also hit the 7,500 yards receiving mark, the eighth tight end to do so.
“They just made plays when it came down to it. The quarterback is a damn good player. The tight end is a damn good player,” Chiefs cornerback Orlando Scandrick said. “Those guys have been with each other a long time and you can see it. You can see the non-verbal communication. They just made more plays than us tonight. I tip my hat to Tom Brady. I tip my hat to Rob Gronkowski. I tip my hat to Julian Edelman, the whole Patriots football team.”