On Sunday, as a 9½-point underdog, Houston will face Gronkowski for the first time in his pro career.
“He’s exceptional,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. “If the ball is close to him, he’s going to catch it. The thing about him, people play him with corners on him. They play him with (line)backers on him. They play him with safeties. His size is just such that it’s just hard. You get in there and bang with him, you’re going to lose that battle. Obviously, we didn’t see him the first time around so it’ll be different for us, but a big, big challenge for us.”
Last year, Gronkowski set a single-season record for tight ends with 17 touchdowns. This year, he might have broken that had he not been injured.
On Sunday, after a bye that gave his forearm extra time to heal, he could be as dangerous as ever.
“I’m always eager,” he said. “Who wouldn’t be? It’s football. You want to go out there and give your best.”
Combine his strength with Hernandez’s elusiveness — and their excellent hands and route-running to boot — and the Patriots should be better equipped against a Texans team determined to make up for their recent flop on the same field.
“They have good players, too,” Slater said. “We’re very fortunate to have two young men as talented as they are on our team. We’re going to need it come Sunday. All hands on deck.”
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