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Sunday, September 18, 2011
No sophomore slump for these tight ends

By Chris Forsberg



FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Combining to catch all three of Tom Brady's touchdowns in another monster offensive effort? Just another day at the office for Patriots second-year tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

Aaron Hernandez
Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski combined for 11 catches, 148 yards and three touchdowns Sunday.
After New England beefed up its receiver corps this offseason, the tight ends have emerged as the focal point of an offense that has passed for 940 yards over the first two weeks of the season. Gronkowski and Hernandez combined for 11 receptions for 148 yards and all three of the Patriots' passing touchdowns in Sunday's 35-21 triumph over the San Diego Chargers.

"It is what it is," said Gronkowski, reaching for the favorite phrase in the New England locker room. "Everyone's doing a great job -- the [offensive] line, the wide receivers. Whatever the play call is, that's what you've got to go out and execute. And then you've got to keep it up, too."

That hasn't been a problem for these two. After combining for 87 catches for 1,109 yards and 16 touchdowns during their rookie campaigns, the duo has already paired up for 24 receptions for 337 yards and five touchdowns in two weeks this season.

Think about that for a moment. Projected out over a 16-game season, these two tight ends are on pace for 192 catches for 2,696 yards and 40 touchdowns. Seems impossible to maintain, right? Well, obviously no one's figured out exactly how to take them away quite yet.

Meanwhile, San Diego's all-world tight end Antonio Gates didn't have a single catch in Sunday's game.

"We have great coaches that put us in the position to make some plays and [quarterback] Tom [Brady] finds us and we just try to make plays when we get the chance."

The only negative Sunday: Hernandez suffered a knee injury that forced him out of the game at one point. He was spotted in the locker room limping after the game. But asked about the injury he just smiled and noted, "I'm a little sore. We’ll see what it is. I'm just getting ready for this next game."