By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Patriots needed yet another championship drive. So Tom Brady turned to a championship weapon. And even in a season wracked by injuries with some of the lowest production of his career, Rob Gronkowski came up with the championship plays the Patriots needed in the end.
In one single, thrilling fourth-quarter drive, Gronkowski reclaimed the same big-play magic that has helped make him the greatest tight end in Patriots history, and perhaps the best to ever play in the NFL. In a game like this, which featured 14 punts and a 3-3 tie into the fourth quarter, just one drive - one play, really - is all that either team needed to end up Super Bowl LIII champions. Gronkowski was the one to come up with it, and what a spectacular and timely championship play it was.
It started in the huddle. Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman, who'd been making plays left and right all night, told Gronkowski he was the one they needed to come up with something huge. And like the tight end has so many times in his career - even this season - he came out on top in the gotta-have-it spot.
"Julian [Edelman] in the huddle on that drive, he looked at me and said, 'We need another one from you bro, we need a huge play,'" Gronkowski said after the game. "He's been making them all game. I had to step up."
Well, Tom Brady launched a 29-yard missile to a double-covered Gronkowski, who gathered the football into his hands and maintained control as he rolled to the turf. Gronkowski's massive catch helped set up Sony Michel's go-ahead touchdown, which was enough to secure Tom Brady and Bill Belichick's sixth Super Bowl title together.
On a down night overall for the most prolific quarterback-tight end combo the NFL has ever seen, the duo really came up huge in the biggest moment. Yet. Again.
He could feel the old Gronk magic coming back.
"I knew it was going to come to me. I just had a feeling," Gronkowski said. "We ran the play like two plays before. Kind of beat the guy, had a little leverage. [Josh] McDaniels saw it, repeated the play again. I knew it was going to come to me. Tom [Brady] put it up there and went and made the play. It's just surreal."
You can't win as many championships as this Patriots team has, even just since the start of Gronkowski's career, without mental toughness. Resilience. Super Bowl LIII was the ultimate test of mental fortitude for both offenses. The longer it dragged on, the more the teams punted back and forth, the more important it got to make a play. Just one.
Gronkowski, really, made two. He also caught a dime from Brady for 18 yards to help propel the drive that ended with his 29-yard catch and the Michel touchdown. Like a lot of weapons in Brady-led offenses, the raw stat sheet doesn't jump at you - six catches, 87 yards. But the magnitude of those catches, especially the two on the touchdown drive, outweighs any silly number.
Now, Gronk can call himself a champion again. And if he does decide to retire after this game, he will go out as a champion. And what a finale he delivered on just two magnificent plays.
"We won the game. That was the best team win," Gronkowski said. "Everyone played together, we stuck to our plan and we came out victorious - unbelievable. This is surreal, another celebration. This is amazing."
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].