ORCHARD PARK — Rob Gronkowski had a record-breaking homecoming Sunday. Gronkowski, who grew up in suburban Buffalo, set a New England Patriots record with his 69th career touchdown in a 41-25 victory over the Buffalo Bills.
“Definitely an honor to come home to my hometown and get that record,” Gronkowski said. “To hold the record for most franchise touchdowns is just unbelievable.”
Stanley Morgan held the franchise record since 1989. Gronkowski also broke Morgan’s record for receiving touchdowns with his 68th. He has also scored a rushing touchdown.
“Stanley Morgan actually called me to congratulate me,” Gronkowski said. “He was an awesome player and an awesome guy. He said congratulations and it was pretty cool. To get a phone call from him already, right after the game in the locker room, was something special.”
Morgan scored his 68 touchdowns in 180 games with the Patriots from 1977-89. Gronkowski has played in 86 games.
“That guy’s (a) phenomenal player and he’s been that way for a long time,” Ryan said of Gronkowski.
Gronkowski has done more damage against the Bills than any other opponent, catching 52 passes for 813 yards and 11 touchdowns in 11 games.
Rob Gronkowski (87)
The Patriots are 9-2 against the Bills with Gronkowski in the lineup. One of those losses came four weeks ago, when Gronkowski was still limited by a hamstring injury and quarterback Tom Brady was still suspended.
“I’m so glad we came in here and showed them what we’re really about,” Gronkowski said.
Gronkowski set the record with a 53-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter. He lined up at receiver in an empty backfield set and got behind Bills cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman on a post route. Catching the ball in stride at the 27, Gronkowski won the foot race to the end zone and high-stepped on his way in.
“Gronk had one-on-one with Robey and cut inside and I just tried to put it out there for him and he made a great play,” Brady said. “He had a great catch and run and he’s tough when he’s running through the middle of the defense.”
After scoring the touchdown that put the Patriots up 21-10, Gronkowski spiked the ball and took a bow.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” Brady said. “He is dynamic player for us. He makes great plays in the pass game, down the field, intermediate, short. He’s tough to tackle. He has a great enthusiasm about him. He’s just done a great job since he’s been here, so it’s a credit to him and his toughness, his mental toughness.”
Gronkowski attended many Bills game with his father, Gordie, and his four brothers when he was younger. The Bills had an opportunity to draft Gronkowski out of Arizona in 2010 but selected defensive tackle Torell Troup one spot before the Patriots took Gronkowski 42nd overall.
He’s happy with the way things turned out.
“I love being a part of this organization, love being part of the Brady era,” Gronkowski said. “I couldn’t ask to be in any better situation when I got drafted here seven years ago.”
Gronkowski finished Sunday’s game with five receptions for 109 yards. In the four games since Brady’s return, Gronkowski has 21 catches for 473 yards and three touchdowns, reaffirming his status as one of the league’s best tight ends.
“He’s a phenomenal player, a phenomenal teammate,” wide receiver Julian Edelman said. “It’s a pleasure to get to play with that guy. His attitude towards the game, he has so much fun. He’s just a flat-out beast that goes and has fun.”