Entering the 2012 season, only two tight ends in NFL history have had three seasons with 10 or more receiving touchdowns. On Sunday, Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots caught his ninth and tenth touchdowns of the season, joining future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates in this exclusive club.
While as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, Gonzalez had 10 or more touchdown receptions during the 1999, 2003 and 2008 seasons. San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates joined that list with his third 10+ touchdown reception season in 2010 after previously accomplishing that feat in 2004 and 2005.
Gronkowski scored his ninth touchdown of the 2012 season in the first quarter of Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts. Gronkowski beat Colts linebacker Kavell Conner for a four-yard score that tied the game with just over seven minutes to play in the opening quarter. Gronkowski's second touchdown came on a 24-yard strike late in the third quarter after Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich forced a fumble on Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck. The second touchdown increased New England's lead over the upstart Colts to 38-17.
What makes Gronkowski's feat even more impressive is that 2010 second round pick out of Arizona has accomplished it in each of his first three seasons in the NFL, and is the first tight end in league history with 10+ touchdown receptions in three consecutive seasons. As a rookie, Gronkowski caught 42 passes for 546 yards, but late in the season, the 6-foot-6, 265-pounder became a dangerous threat in the red zone, catching four touchdown passes in the final month to finish the regular season with 10 touchdowns. Gronkowski had a breakout season in 2011, earning Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors after catching 90 passes for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns, the last two figures representing NFL single-season records at the tight end position.
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