Print and Go Back ESPN.com: New England Patriots [Print without images]

Sunday, January 1, 2012
Hernandez delivers with big day

By Steven Krasner

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- While one Patriots tight end was making a name for himself, another New England tight end was turning in an impressive performance on Sunday, too.

Aaron Hernandez
Aaron Hernandez's running after his seven catches helped him pile up a career-high 138 yards.
Aaron Hernandez may not have set an NFL record for receiving yards in a season for a tight end, as Rob Gronkowski did, but Hernandez’ seven catches for a team- and career-high 138 yards helped the Patriots humble the Buffalo Bills, 49-21, at Gillette Stadium.

And while the seven catches were nice, it was the way Hernandez ran with the ball after making the grabs that brought the sellout crowd of 68,756 to its feet.

Twice Hernandez turned relatively short catches into long gainers with his ability to weave and cut and dodge and break tackles. He turned one catch into a 44-yard scamper, and another into a 27-yard pickup.

“I’m just trying to make moves and make people miss. Sometimes it works,” said the 6-foot-1, 245-pound Hernandez. “I was a running back until high school. I loved carrying the ball and making moves. I still love to do that."

Hernandez, who just completed his second NFL season, was used as a running back at times as well as a receiver in college at Florida. The Pats have been trying to tap into his versatility. Sunday he also carried the ball twice on a pair of end-arounds. He gained a total of 26 yards on those rushes, including 19 on one burst.

As a receiver, meanwhile, he notched his third 100-yard game of the season and the fourth of his career. Gronkowski (90) and Hernandez (79) combined for 169 receptions, the most by a pair of tight ends in NFL history, easily surpassing the 127 passes snagged by the Dallas Cowboys’ tandem of Jason Whitten (94) and Marcellus Bennett (33) last season.