UPDATE: Rob Gronkowski has been suspended one game for violating unnecessary roughness rules after diving into Tre'Davious White.
It was a stunning moment in a game that had already been decided. With the Patriots leading Buffalo, 23-3, late in the fourth quarter, Bills rookie CB Tre'Davious White intercepted a Tom Brady pass intended for Rob Gronkowski, after both White and Gronkowski were very physical during the route. White went to the ground and Patriots WR Phillip Dorsett touched him down, then Gronkowski dove in, driving an elbow into the back of White's helmet.
"First off, I definitely want to apologize to No. 27 [White]. I'm not in the business of that," Gronkowski said after the game. "I was just really frustrated at that moment." When asked to explain his frustration, the tight end said, "He was trying to push me a little bit . . . I just don't understand why there wasn't a flag. A couple times in the game. They are calling me for the craziest, craziest stuff ever and it's just like, crazy. I mean, like what am I supposed to do? And then they don't call that, I mean. It was just frustration and that's what happened." In the other locker room, Bills safety Micah Hyde called the move "a dirty play" and it was reported that White, who took his helmet off and slowly got up after the hit, entered the concussion protocol.
Now it is up to the league to decide how to punish Gronkowski, who was penalized but not ejected. Former head of officiating Dean Blandino, now an analyst for FOX, said he should have been removed from play. "I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a substantial fine and maybe even a suspension going forward," Blandino said.
I would be surprised if Gronk isn't suspended. For one, he's been fined for unnecessary roughness and for participating in the brawl at the end of Super Bowl XLIX. But more than that, we've seen the NFL get increasingly tough in response to hits to the head, including linebacker Danny Trevathan's suspension earlier this year. Defensive players have complained that their side of the ball is being unfairly punished for instinctive plays as the league puts an emphasis on player safety. Now, the NFL has a chance to show it is willing to punish offensive players as well—and a star at that—in a case where the hit clearly came outside of the normal run of action.
Fortunately for the Patriots, they face the 5-7 Dolphins next week (a game they should win even without their tight end) before a big one in Pittsburgh, though a Gronk suspension could re-open old wounds with the New England organization and fan base. We'll find out soon if the league decides to go down that road again.
Not getting this newsletter in your inbox yet?Join The MMQB’s Morning Huddle.
LATER TODAY ON THE MMQB: Andy Benoit looks at the Ravens' playoff push ... Jenny Vrentas checks in with the Eagles ... Orr covers Monday Night Football... and more. Stay tuned.
1. Seahawks 24, Eagles 10. The NFC got a whole lot more interesting Sunday night. Russell Wilson was dynamic, throwing for three scores (and mounting an MVP case), and a depleted defense forced two Philadelphia turnovers to snap the Eagles' nine-game win streak and push them out of the top spot in the NFC standings (the Vikings now hold the No. 1 seed). Seattle currently sits in fifth.
2. Vikings 14, Falcons 9. The Vikings went to Atlanta and held the Falcons without a touchdown for the first time since 2015. Atlanta fans now become Minnesota supporters as the Vikings head to Carolina—the Panthers sit a game ahead of the Falcons in the wild-card race.
3.Saints 31, Panthers 21. About those Panthers . . . they are the latest team to prove incapable of stopping New Orleans' running back combination of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. Those two combined for 248 scrimmage yards and three touchdowns as the Saints swept their NFC South foes to regain control of the division.
4. Jets 38, Chiefs 31. Kansas City went up 14-0 five minutes into this one, and it seemed as if the offense had regained its mojo with Matt Nagy taking over play-calling duties. But then the defense collapsed. The Jets controlled the ball for a preposterous 42:49 and Josh McCown threw for 331 yards in the comeback victory. Kansas City falls to 6-6 with the loss, and its freefall now has a signature moment thanks to cornerback Marcus Peters' decision to throw a penalty flag into the stands, walk off the field, and come back without socks.
5.49ers 15, Bears 14. Jimmy Garoppolo got a win in his first start for San Francisco. He moved the ball effectively, but drives repeatedly stalled in the red zone. Kicker Robbie Gould accounted for all 15 points for the Niners in a revenge game for the former Bear.
6.Raiders 24, Giants 17. Geno Smith fumbled twice for New York as Eli Manning watched from the sidelines. But the bigger story was Marshawn Lynch rushing for 100 yards for the first time as a Raider, helping Oakland rise to 6-6, tied with the Chiefs and Chargers.
7. Packers 26, Buccaneers 20 (OT). Green Bay is now .500 after Aaron Jones scored from 20 yards out on the first drive of overtime following three-and-outs from both teams to end regulation. In his return from shoulder surgery, Jameis Winston threw two touchdown passes, both to Cameron Brate. Brett Hundley, potentially making his second-to-last start of the season with Aaron Rodgers poised to return in Week 15, had only 84 yards through the air.
8. Titans 24, Texans 13. Tom Savage moved Houston into scoring range, down four with 1:13 to play, before throwing an interception in the end zone to end it. That INT soured a career-high 365-yard performance.
9.Jaguars 30, Colts 10. Jacksonville kept pace with Tennessee by handling an inferior divisional rival. Blake Bortles had 309 yards passing and two scores while completing nearly 75% of his passes.
10. Ravens 44, Lions 20. If Baltimore's offense can keep this up, they might have something. Joe Flacco threw for two touchdowns and Alex Collins ran for two more, and the Ravens won the turnover battle 3-0. In the loss, Matthew Stafford suffered a hand injury, though X-rays came back negative.
11. Chargers 19, Browns 10. It was closer than many expected, but the Chargers ultimately took care of Cleveland at home (the score would've been more lopsided had it not been for the Chargers' 1-for-4 red zone performance). In his long-awaited return, Josh Gordon led the Browns with 85 yards receiving on four catches.
12.Rams 32, Cardinals 16. Anyone waiting for a come-down game for the year's biggest surprise contender will have to keep waiting. Los Angeles has now secured its first winning season since 2003.
13. Dolphins 35, Broncos 9. An ugly game between ugly teams. A Denver snap flew through the end zone for a safety in the first quarter. Trevor Siemian threw three interceptions. And a fourth-quarter safety bookended the putrid performance for the Broncos.
Have a story you think we should include in tomorrow’s Press Coverage?Let us know here.
Well Joe Flaccoate a W. I guess this is a thing now.
Question? Comment? Story idea? Let the team know at firstname.lastname@example.org