- Field Yates, ESPN Insider
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Though his team was unable to come away with a victory, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was a bright spot in the 30-27 overtime defeat to the Jets, playing 51-of-79 offensive snaps and catching a game-high eight passes for 114 yards. He was targeted a career-high 17 times.
All eyes were on Gronkowski in his season debut, and the fourth-year tight end said he was feeling good physically after the game.
"Everything went good, I'm feeling good and just got to keep working hard every week, got to keep on improving every week," he said. "[I've] got lots to improve on and can keep on getting better every week."
After missing the first six games of the regular season, Gronkowski was happy to be back on the field with his teammates.
"It felt good to get back out there with the teammates," he said. "Fight with your team. Played hard with your team. You win as a team, you lose a team, and you've got to give it to the Jets; they're a good team, they've got a good defense and we've just got to make more plays out there."
The tight end wore a protective brace over his left forearm, which was broken twice last season and required multiple offseason surgeries to repair. He said after the game it took just one play for him to start feeling comfortable again.
"I was in there [for] a lot of blocking plays and it was just really after the first play," he said. "I mean, after the first time you get tackled, after the first blocking play, after basically the first play and it felt good, it felt just like normal, being back out there with the teammates and rolling."
Patriots tight ends had accounted for just 96 receiving yards in the team's first six games, but the offense was dramatically impacted by Gronkowski's return.
Despite his solid effort, Gronkowski admitted he left some plays on the field, including a near one-handed grab late in the game that could have resulted in a touchdown.
"Still mad at myself about that," he said. "I had it, I brought it in and I dropped it."
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady shared praise for Gronkowski's efforts after the game, but was focused on his offense's inability to make enough plays for the win.
"He played his butt off," Brady said. "All the guys played hard, it was a lot of effort, we played hard, played for as long as we could, we just didn't make enough plays."
While Gronkowski was available Sunday, the offense was without wide receiver Danny Amendola (concussion). Fellow wide receiver Julian Edelman, who was listed as questionable with a thigh injury, was active and had five catches for 44 yards.
New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski made his season debut in Sunday's 30-27 overtime loss to the New York Jets, marking his first game back after undergoing offseason surgeries on his back and forearm.