TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski has a unique (and rather hilarious) analogy for the touchdown catch he made Sunday on the back-shoulder fade that has become the signature play between him and quarterback Tom Brady in their 11 seasons together — one that they’ve connected on in each of the past two games.
“It’s like a saying my mom used to say: ‘It must be maple syrup because butter don’t drizzle like that,’” Gronkowski said Wednesday when asked about the throw.
What on earth does his mother mean, you ask?
.@RobGronkowski was asked about back-shoulder fades with Tom Brady.
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) October 28, 2020
“You don’t got much time to react and syrup drizzles … you’ve gotta make that play,” Gronkowski said. “And a stick of butter — it’s a block, you’ve gotta put it in the microwave, melt it — that just takes too long. You’ve gotta make that play right away, baby, and that’s why I’m like the maple syrup. That’s why she used to always say that, ’cause I’m quick with it. I just drizzle all over the place!”
Gronkowski has drizzled all over the place the past two weeks as he has gotten more comfortable in Bruce Arians’ offense and gotten his legs under him without the preseason. His two touchdowns over the past two weeks are tied for second most in the league among tight ends. His 10 catches in that span are tied with Jimmy Graham for second most in the league among tight ends. His 140 receiving yards over the past two weeks are also second most in the league, behind only George Kittle.
Meanwhile Brady is 19-of-27 for 384 yards and five touchdowns targeting Gronkowski on fade routes in the past four seasons, including playoffs, according to ESPN metrics/NFL Next Gen Stats (data prior to 2017 is not available). The only duo to hook up on more fades is Matt Ryan and Julio Jones (20 completions) and no duo has connected for a higher completion rate (minimum of 10 attempts).
“That back-shoulder fade, we haven’t really practiced that much of it this year, just because there’s a lot of other things that we’ve been trying to do,” Gronkowski said. “But that connection just came throughout all the years of us working together. I just ran my route, he put a perfect ball out there for only myself to go up and make a play, and that’s what happened. It felt good to get back to those terms and split out wide and catch a touchdown like that.”
Brady’s 15 red zone touchdown passes are tied with Russell Wilson for the most of any QB in the league. Behind Brady, the Bucs’ red zone touchdown percentage is 78.6%, fourth best in the league. His off-target throwing percentage in the red zone is 15.8% — eighth best in the league — compared with 25% last year for the Bucs, which was 20th.
When asked what it’s like playing with a quarterback known for fitting the ball into such tight spaces in the red zone, Gronkowski said, “It’s great. It’s a lot of trust. You just go out there and you can just play football. You don’t have to think about anything, and wherever the ball’s thrown, you just trust in Tom that that’s where the ball needs to be and you just go up and make the play. That’s just how it’s been my whole career with him. The guy just works hard, puts the ball where it needs to be, no matter what season it is for him. It’s just great to have a quarterback like that.”