Essentials from Sunday: All hail The Gronk

Rob Gronkowski continues to dominate opposing defenses, becoming the first tight end in NFL history with 10 touchdowns in four different seasons. He wasn’t alone in noteworthy performances on Sunday.

The NFL is full of players 30-some years old breaking records – witness Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers regularly being a staple in this weekly column.

But Rob Gronkowski is redefining his position at a young age. At only 25 years old and in his fifth season, the New England Patriots tight end became the first player at his position to record four separate seasons of 10 touchdowns or more. That happened when Gronkowski caught a 14-yard touchdown pass in the Patriots’ big win over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday night. He finished with eight catches for 87 yards, and for the season he has 73 catches for 997 yards. With three games remaining, he stands to break the 1,000-yard mark for the second time in his five-year career (he had 1,327 in 2011) and could finish with the second-most touchdowns of his career (he had 17 in 2011, 10 in 2010 and 11 in 2012 but missed more than half of last season with an injury).

Interestingly, Antonio Gates, who was playing against the Patriots on Sunday night, had a chance to reach that level, too. Gates has nine touchdowns this season. He had 10 in 2010, 10 in 2005 and 13 in 2004. But if Gates scores one touchdown in his last three games, it will have taken him 12 seasons to reach the mark that Gronkowski has in five seasons. For his career, Gates has 771 catches for 9,801 yards and 96 touchdowns. Gronkowski has 299 catches for 4,252 yards and 52 touchdowns in less than five seasons.

Other notes and stats that stand out from Sunday:

  • Whether it was meant with a touch of humor or a helping of hubris, St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher tweaked the Washington Redskins before their game. Fisher sent out Janoris Jenkins, Michael Brockers, Zac Stacy, Stedman Bailey, Greg Robinson and Alec Olgetree for the pregame coin toss. Why is that a big deal? Because all six of those players were acquired using draft picks obtained when Washington traded with the Rams to move up and draft QB Robert Griffin III in 2012.

    The Rams traded the second overall pick in the 2012 draft for three first-round picks and a second-rounder. St. Louis then traded down again and picked Brockers in the first round and Jenkins in the second round. In 2013, they traded down again in the first round, picking Ogletree late in the first round, Bailey in the third round and Stacy in the fifth round. In 2014, they picked Robinson with the second overall pick.

    The Rams also had the last laugh on Sunday, beating the Redskins 24-0. It was their second consecutive shutout win after beating the Oakland Raiders 52-0 last in Week 13. It was the first time since 1945 that the Rams had back-to-back shutout wins.

    St. Louis’ 83 unanswered points over the last two games is the most since the since the Buffalo Bills scored 86 unanswered points in September 1992, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

  • Pittsburgh Steelers running Le'Veon Bell had 235 scrimmage yards
    (185 rushing, 50 receiving) and three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving) in the Steelers’ 42-21 win at the Cincinnati Bengals. Bell became only the second player in NFL history to have three consecutive games with at least 200 scrimmage yards, joining Walter Payton (1977).

    Also in that game, Steelers rookie receiver Martavis Bryant scored a touchdown, marking the seventh straight game he has a touchdown reception and joining Harlon Hill, Max McGee and Billy Howton in having at least seven touchdowns receptions in their first seven games. Bryant is the first one to do that since 1954.

  • New York Giants rookie receiver Odell Beckham continued his impressive initial season, catching 11 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown in the Giants’ 36-7 win at the Tennessee Titans. Beckham is the first rookie in NFL history to have at least 90 yards receiving in six consecutive games. He is also the second rookie (Bill Groman, 1960) to have at least 700 yards receiving in a six-game span. And, according to Elias, his 49 catches over that six-game span are the most by any rookie in NFL history, easily blowing past Terry Kirby’s mark of 41 in 1994.

  • Continuing with the wide receiver theme, Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson had 158 yards and a touchdown in the Lions’ 34-17 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, giving him his 43rd career 100-yard game and tying him for second-most in a player’s first eight seasons. Randy Moss holds the record with 45, and Johnson joins Marvin Harrison and Torry Holt at 43.

  • Quarterback Andrew Luck has done quite a job replacing Peyton Manning with the Indianapolis Colts. After throwing for 294 yards and two touchdowns, including a 1-yard game-winner to T.Y. Hilton with 32 seconds left for the win against the Cleveland Browns, Luck now has 12,501 career passing yards, besting Manning’s mark of 12,287 yards through his first three seasons, which was the NFL record.

  • Meanwhile, Manning’s 51-game streak of throwing a touchdown pass came to an end in the Denver Broncos’ 24-17 win over the Bills. Manning’s streak ends in third place in NFL history, behind the 54-game touchdown streak of Drew Brees and 52-game streak of Tom Brady.

  • The Miami Dolphins offensive line is setting a dubious mark. The Baltimore RavensElvis Dumervil had 3½ sacks against the Dolphins and that marked the fifth time this season a single player has recorded three or more sacks in a game, according to Elias. The problem for Miami? Three of those performances came against the Dolphins. Jay Ratliff of the Chicago Bears and Mario Williams of the Bills also did it against Miami, which, prior to this season, had never given up a three-sack game to an individual player.

  • Think the Cleveland Browns might turn to Johnny Manziel now? QB Brian Hoyer had his third straight game with at least two interceptions and no touchdowns, the first time that has happened in Browns history, according to Elias.

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