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Sunday, September 25, 2011
Loss spoils Gronk homecoming

By Chris Forsberg

Kevin Hoffman/US PresswireRob Gronkowski reels in a first-half touchdown pass.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski continues to thrive in his backyard.

Gronkowski, a native of nearby Williamsville, N.Y., caught seven passes for a career-high 109 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday's 34-31 loss to the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Gronkowski, the only active tight end on the roster, caught five passes for 71 yards and both of his scores in the first half, but the Bills rallied late, tempering excitement about his performance.

"We just weren't executing well on offense," Gronkowski said of a day that saw quarterback Tom Brady throw four touchdowns and four interceptions. "If we start executing at the beginning, then we've got to keep it up the whole game. Of course we had a couple nice drives at the beginning of the game... but we've just got to keep on executing and keep on doing what we have to do."

Early on it was the Patriots taking advantage of turnovers. After the first of two Kyle Arrington interceptions, Gronkowski capped a six-play, 35-yard scoring drive with a 1-yard touchdown grab with Bills free safety Jairus Byrd chasing him across the back of the end zone.

Midway through the second quarter, Gronkowski snared a 26-yard touchdown pass from Brady to cap a five-play, 65-yard scoring march that put the Patriots on top, 21-0. But things only went downhill from there for New England.

"We just didn't stay focused, I guess," said Gronkowski. "It's never too much, too soon. You always want to get off to a fast start, but we've got to keep on going and keep on hanging on to that."

Gronkowski admitted the offense felt pretty helpless watching the Bills run out the clock before booting the winning 28-yard field goal as time expired.

"I wish we could have gotten the ball back and gone on a drive," said Gronkowski. "They just have a good team overall, offense and defense, and they were just the better team today."

Gronkowski probably would have enjoyed this type of Bills win a decade ago when he grew up supporting the local squad (heck, a 14-year-old Gronkowski probably reveled in the Bills' 2003 triumph here, the last time Buffalo defeated the Patriots before Sunday). Gronkowski shined here last season, too, grabbing two more touchdowns during a Week 16 visit. This time around, a few Patriots jerseys with his No. 87 could even be seen in the crowd.

But not leaving with a win spoiled the trip home for Gronkowski.