FOXBOROUGH — As Patriots made their way to the locker room at halftime of Sunday night’s game against the Colts, trailing, 21-20, Patriot Nation was in a panic.
Where was Rob Gronkowski? Where was New England’s hulking tight end and why wasn’t he running roughshod over the Indianapolis secondary?
Thirty minutes of football in the books and Gronkowski had zero catches and one target? Clearly this was unacceptable. Well, while the fans may have been in a tizzy, Gronkowski wasn’t. Catching passes and scoring touchdowns is just part of his duties. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to be the focal point, he just knows he can be effective with or without the ball in his hands.
“Everyone always wants more touches, but that’s not the case. The case here is just going out and doing my job,’’ said Gronkowski, who finished with three catches for 50 yards, including the go-ahead 25-yard touchdown on the opening drive of the third quarter. “It’s blocking, it’s going out and running a route to help someone else to get open, running a route to get the ball and I’ve got to make a play when the ball’s thrown to me.’’
Just as the Patriots’ game plan changes every week depending on the opponent, so too does the opponent’s plan to try to stop Gronkowski. And while it sometimes may seem like a successful plan, he’s almost always making an impact, whether his numbers are gaudy or god awful.
“Every game is different. Different players, different personnel, different coverages you see. That’s why you’ve got to be prepared every single week for everything,’’ Gronkowski said Thursday. “You can’t go into practice and expect one coverage. You’ve got to expect variations of coverages, variations of players, and just go out there and get it all down mentally and physically so you’re prepared come Sunday.’’
So far, the offense has been prepared for every situation, including making adjustments on the fly when things aren’t going well. Gronkowski said the offense’s goal is always “balance’’ but it’s more important to go with what’s working.
“Sometimes we run the ball 40 times a game, sometimes we pass the ball 40-60 times a game. Our offense just goes with the flow,’’ said Gronkowski, who said “it doesn’t seem like’’ he’s been asked to do any more blocking than usual this season. “However the game plan goes, if we’re running the ball and gaining 10 yards every single play, why would you stop running?’’
Gronkowski said Sunday presents another challenge as the Jets bring their top-rated defense to Gillette Stadium with first place in the AFC East on the line.
“They’re good. They bring it every time,’’ he said. “They’re big, fast. They can cover, they can play the run. So we just have to go out there and execute as a team.’’
Fitting right in
Rookie fullback Joey Iosefa, who was added to the practice squad Wednesday, said he’s grateful for the “great opportunity’’ to join the Patriots and is eager “to do whatever it takes to help this team win.’’
A seventh-round pick of Tampa Bay, Iosefa said he worked out for the Patriots shortly after being released by the Buccaneers.
“I was in for a workout before the season started and they told me to get ready, so I was with Brooklyn of the FXFL [Fall Experimental Football League] trying to stay in shape,’’ he said. “Then I got the call, so it was easy to transition from Brooklyn . . . I’m ready to help anywhere. Fullback or anywhere. I’m ready.’’
The Patriots released defensive linemen Khyri Thornton from the 53-man roster and offensive lineman Brennan Williams from the practice squad. Thornton originally was claimed off waivers from Green Bay in September. Williams had just signed earlier in the week . . . For the second straight day, defensive end Jabaal Sheard (ankle), linebacker Rufus Johnson (illness), and offensive linemen Marcus Cannon (toe) and Shaq Mason (knee) were absent from practice, which was held in full pads . . . In addition to those four, seven others showed up on the injury report, including running back Brandon Bolden and receiver Keshawn Martin, both of whom were listed for the first time with hamstring ailments. The other five were defensive lineman Trey Flowers (knee/shoulder), linebacker Dont’a Hightower (rib), offensive lineman Josh Kline (shoulder), running back Dion Lewis (abdomen), and receiver Matthew Slater (knee). All seven were limited participants in practice . . . Also for the second straight day, receiver Brandon LaFell (offseason foot surgery), who is on the physically unable to perform list but can return at any time, and center Bryan Stork (head), who is on injured reserve designated to return and can do so Nov. 8, practiced . . . Jets receivers Brandon Marshall (calf) and Eric Decker (knee) were limited in practice . . . Defensive lineman Dominique Easley was sporting a Florida Gators long-sleeve T-shirt in the locker room one day after having to wear an LSU T-shirt after losing a bet to LaFell. The LSU T-shirt was spotted hanging from LaFell’s locker . . . Twitter was abuzz after the Patriots tweeted a “Throwback Thursday” offering, featuring a picture of ex-Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez’s infamous butt fumble with the line, “This seems relevant. #TBT.” The tweet was later deleted.
Jim McBride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.