FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady’s eyes widened when he was told that he didn’t even throw a pass in the direction of tight end Rob Gronkowski on Sunday — the first time in the three-time All-Pro’s career that he wasn’t targeted for an entire game.
“Really?” the Patriots quarterback said. “I didn’t know that. I didn’t notice.”
Gronkowski was twice held without a catch last season, but his season-low for 2017 was two catches in the opener against Kansas City. He finished the regular season with 69 receptions for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns.
Afterward, he said he wasn’t surprised by the game plan.
And he said he wasn’t bothered by it, either.
“It was a coaching decision,” Gronkowski said. “A coaching decision is a coaching decision.”
Gronkowski was due to receive a $2 million bonus if he caught 80 passes, had 1,200 receiving yards or played in 90 percent of the team’s snaps (which he also fell short of), according to ESPN. He will also earn the bonus if he is selected again to The Associated Press All-Pro team this week.
With the 26-6 victory over the New York Jets, the Patriots (13-3) clinched the top seed in the AFC. They will have a bye in the first round of the playoffs and host the lowest remaining season the weekend of Jan. 13-14
“Everything’s good,” he said. “We just won the AFC. We’re champions. We got the No. 1 seed. That was a big one right there.”
Jets (5-11) coach Todd Bowles said there was no specific plan to keep the ball away from Gronkowski. In all, Brady completed 18 of 37 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns.
“It just worked out that way,” he said. “They have a lot of weapons. You pick your poison who you’re going to let (them) throw the ball to.”
Job interviews likely for Pats assistant coaches
It’s another bye week for the New England Patriots, and that means time for Bill Belichick’s assistants to interview for head coaching jobs.
Both offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia are expected to be coveted by the six or more teams looking to fill openings this offseason. With the Patriots off until their divisional playoff game on Jan. 13, McDaniels and Patricia will have a chance to make their case.
“There’s a time and a place for all of that,” McDaniels said Monday in a conference call with reporters. “My focus here when I come into this building will always be on what’s best for the Patriots and trying to do what I can to help us prepare to play our best game the next time we go out on the field.”
McDaniels and Patricia said Monday morning that they hadn’t heard from any suitors yet. Coach Bill Belichick praised his assistants and said, “We’ll see how it goes.”
McDaniels has gone through this before, when he was hired to coach the Denver Broncos in 2009; he lasted less than two seasons. As a top assistant in one of the most successful regimes in NFL history, he is annually a top target, including last year when he interviewed with the Jaguars and 49ers while the Patriots were on their way to a fifth Super Bowl victory.
“I’ve gone through it before, which is helpful in terms of being able to balance that and multitask it,” McDaniels said.
Patricia brushed aside questions about his next job, saying he was concentrating on his current one.
“None of that is even really applicable for me right now because I don’t have any information on that,” he said a day after Sunday’s 26-6 victory over the New York Jets left New England at 13-3 and the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
“I’m in normal mode — came in and graded the Jets,” Patricia said. “(I’m) working to make sure that we have a good, productive week this week and try to improve those things.”