Rob Gronkowski, finally healthy again, was worth a touchdown a game to the Patriots in the playoffs. That’s not an average or an approximation. He caught a TD pass against every opponent as the Pats made off with their fourth Lombardi Trophy.
A postseason trifecta like that is rare for a tight end. The only other one who’s done it Gronkowski’s way — division round, conference title game, Super Bowl — is the 49ers’ Brent Jones in 1989. Interesting parallel, don’t you think? After all, Gronk’s quarterback was Tom Brady, who was in the process of winning his fourth ring, and Jones’ quarterback was Joe Montana, who was in the process of winning his fourth ring in ’89.
Just four tight ends have had touchdown receptions in three games in a single postseason. Here’s how they compare:
ROB GRONKOWSKI, PATRIOTS, 2014
DENNIS PITTA, RAVENS, 2012
DUSTIN KELLER, JETS, 2009
BRENT JONES, 49ERS, 1989
Gronkowski’s postseason certainly measures up to any of these. But in terms of total touchdowns, Dave Casper’s 1977 and Vernon Davis’ 2011 are still the gold standard in the playoffs, even though neither got to the Super Bowl. Their game-by-games:
DAVE CASPER, RAIDERS, 1977
|Colts||4||70||17.5||3||8, 10, 10*|
VERNON DAVIS, 49ERS, 2011
Davis, amazingly, had three of the four longest touchdowns scored by these tight ends — 73, 49 and 28 yards. That explains his equally ridiculous 29.2-yards-per-catch average.
As for Casper, his game against the Colts in the ’77 playoffs — when they were still in Baltimore — was one for the ages. In addition to his three TDs, the last in the second overtime period to give the Raiders a 37-31 win, he also had a 42-yard catch late in regulation that tied it up.
That’s the famous Ghost to the Post play (Ghost being the pale-white Casper’s nickname). Watch:
Casper had a classic quote about his touchdown in OT:
The final play was K-17 and was designed for me all the way. We wanted to do something they didn’t expect. The cornerback was doing his job, protecting against the run. He was in a tough situation.
I faked inside and went outside. Any stiff could have done it. I’m glad I’m the stiff that did it.
So, yeah, Gronkowski had a terrific postseason — and unlike some of the others, he has a ring to show for it. But he didn’t go quite as wild, touchdown-wise, as Casper and Davis did, and he didn’t have a signature moment like Casper’s Ghost to the Post (or Dave’s overtime TD, for that matter). Perhaps that’s still to come. I mean, the guy’s only 25.