National Tight Ends Day

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By Terrance Turner

Oct. 25, 2020 (Updated Oct. 28)

Today is National Tight Ends Day. Although this may sound like a made-up holiday, San Francisco tight end George Kittle designated the day as the last Sunday in October. Kittle is one of the league’s leading tight ends, along with Chiefs TE Travis Kelce and Buccaneers TE Rob Gronkowski. Kittle explained the holiday in a video:

Kittle credited San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo with the holiday’s genesis. “I’m pretty sure it was a day [that] all the tight ends were active, and so Jimmy G was like, ‘What is it, national tight end day’?” Kittle recalled. That moment sparked Kittle to establish the occasion for the last Sunday in October.

Famous for his aggressive, exuberant play, Kittle has become one of the league’s premier tight ends. He is frequently ranked among the league’s best at his position, along with Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. (The two faced each other in this year’s Super Bowl, with Kelce’s Chiefs besting Kittle’s 49ers 31-20.) Both Kelce and Kittle are known for their fun-loving approach to the game of football: Kelce is known to celebrate touchdowns with funny dances; Kittle will laugh hysterically after pancake-blocking a defender.

Both of them noticed the other’s festive style. Kittle studied film of Kelce while in college at Iowa. “I think the thing that really kind of stands out the most is you see his personality when he plays and how much fun he has,” Kittle said. “Very similar to (Rob Gronkowski) and his personality, the way it shows. I think they just kind of opened the door for tight ends like me to be able to express ourselves on the football field.”

Kelce returned the compliment during Super Bowl media week. “George Kittle, man. I was just talking about his tenacity,” Kelce told the NFL Network. “How he runs routes. How he plays the game with a certain level of energy and enthusiasm. Man, you gotta love it.” Both Kelce and Kittle power their respective teams with energetic, enthusiastic play. And that similarity was not lost on Kelce.

“I think we’re both positive guys,” Kelce said with a big smile. “We both love to play the game and, at the same time, we both love life.”

But both match their appetite for fun with high-level play. Kelce is tied for the NFL record for the most seasons by a tight end with 1,000 or more receiving yards (four seasons and counting), according to FOX Sports. In 2018, Kittle broke the record for most receiving yards by a tight end, racking up 1,377 receiving yards (His 88 catches that season were also the most for his position.) Kittle broke the previous record of 1,327 yards, set by legendary tight end Rob Gronkowski. But that’s far from the only record Gronk has set.

While with the Patriots in 2011, Gronkowski racked up those 1,327 yards and 17 touchdown catches — the most ever by a tight end. He had 18 total touchdowns that year, also the most ever for a tight end in a season. (A pass Gronk caught for a score against the Colts was later ruled a lateral pass, making it a rushing TD. “My first rushing touchdown ever,” Gronk marveled after the game.) Gronkowski became the first tight end EVER to lead the league in receiving touchdowns, according to NFL.com.

Additionally, Gronkowski is the first player at his position to have 10+ touchdowns and 1000+ receiving yards in three different seasons (2011, 2014-2015). He had three consecutive seasons with 10 or more touchdown catches (2010-12). He has the most catches (23) and receiving yards (297) by a tight end in Super Bowl history, according to USA Today. His gloves are on display at the Patriots Hall of Fame.

And he’s not done yet.

Last week, Gronk caught his first TD of the season during a 38-10 win against the Packers. It was his first touchdown as part of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — and his first in nearly two years. (Gronkowski retired briefly in 2019, citing health concerns.) On Sunday — National Tight Ends Day — he caught another touchdown from Tom Brady. That was the 92nd touchdown between them. Brady and Gronk are now tied for second place on the all-time list. The only quarterback-receiver duo to connect for more touchdowns is Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison.

Like Kelce and Kittle, Gronkowski also likes to have fun — on and off the field. His parties are legendary: he had a traveling party bus in 2015 and a party boat in 2016. He even hosted a topless pool party in Vegas in 2012, as seen below.

Rob Gronkowski Hosts Topless Pool Party

Gronk has cemented his legacy as one of the league’s best tight ends. But the true GOAT may be Tony Gonzalez. The tight end played 12 seasons for the Chiefs and five more for the Atlanta Falcons between 1997 and 2013. In the process, he racked up a ton of dazzling stats. Gonzalez is the all-time leader for receptions (1,325) and receiving yards (15,127) at his position, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com. He also has the most career touchdowns (76) in Chiefs franchise history. Gonzalez joined Gronk, Kelce and Kittle for a sitdown earlier this year, just before the Super Bowl. Gronkowski noted that “this is the first time in history, I would say, that the two top tight ends in the league are in the Super Bowl, facing each other. What’s that relationship like?”

Find out in the video below.

UPDATE: Tight end Hayden Hurst made a crucial catch tonight for the Falcons. Quarterback Matt Ryan threw the ball so low that it nearly hit the ground, but Hurst reached out his arms and caught the ball with his fingertips. The ball touched the ground as Hurst reeled it in, but upon further review the catch was upheld. The crucial catch eventually led to a field goal. The Falcons eventually won the game, 25-17.

Catch the crazy play below.

After Lifeless Start, Chiefs’ Offense Explodes to Stun Patriots

By Terrance Turner

It was 6-3 for the entire first half of tonight’s game. The Kansas City Chiefs had two field goals. The New England Patriots had one.

No big plays. No long passes. No touchdowns.

Neither offense showed any signs of life as the third quarter began. The Patriots punted at the start of the third quarter. Then the Chiefs had to punt after an incomplete pass by Mahomes. A seven-minute drive by the Patriots took them all the way to the twelve-yard line. Then RB Rex Burkhead rushed for seven yards to the 5-yard-line. But then, Patriots QB Brian Hoyer was sacked by Chiefs player Taco Charlton. Hoyer fumbled the ball; Kansas City recovered. (Hoyer was later replaced by quarterback Jarrett Stidham.)

This low-score, lackluster offense continued through the third quarter. But then — with just 49 seconds left in the quarter — something happened. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes launched a pass to tight end Travis Kelce, who turned the play into a 45-yard pitch-and-catch. Then, just minutes later, Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill scored by skirting the edge of the field. Hill disappeared inside a sea of blue Patriots jerseys, scampering down the sideline for the touchdown.

It was now 13-3 — the score at the end of Super Bowl 53, which the Patriots won. The Patriots responded tonight with a touchdown of their own. But it was the Chiefs who would prevail. Mahomes threw another touchdown – this time to wide receiver Mecole Hardman. A left-field interception sealed the Chiefs’ win. Stidham tried a pass to veteran wide receiver Julian Edelman. The ball bounced off of Edelman’s hands and into the hands of safety Tyrann Mathieu. He ran it all the way into the end zone for the touchdown.

Follwing the touchdown, the Patriots regained possession and tried to mount a scoring drive. But after two short rushing plays, Stidham was intercepted by Chiefs’ Rashad Fenton, who returned it for 31 yards, according to MSN. That pick effectively ended the game. The Chiefs rolled over the Patriots, 26-10.

The Chiefs are now the first team in NFL history to start 4-0 in four consecutive seasons. Tonight was their 13th straight win (counting the postseason and Super Bowl). Tonight was also Travis Kelce’s birthday. Kelce will celebrate his 31st birthday with a win. He’s also breathing some rarefied air: the Chiefs are one of only six undefeated teams in the NFL.

Brady & Bucs Stymied By Saints In Season Opener

By Terrance Turner

Today was the first time since 2000 that Tom Brady hasn’t started for the New England Patriots. Instead, he served as quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But while the Patriots cruised to a win earlier this afternoon, Brady and the Bucs…didn’t. The New Orleans Saints’ sensational offense and bruising defense obstructed them at every turn.

The game began promisingly enough. Brady scored the team’s first points himself, rushing into the end zone for a touchdown that made it 7-0. But the Saints answered with a touchdown of their own: running back Alvin Kamara scored a rushing TD to tie the game. After Brady was intercepted by Saints’ Marcus Williams early in the second quarter, Kamara seized the moment and scored again, putting his team up 14-7. It was his second touchdown in 90 seconds.

By the midpoint of the second quarter, the game was already getting chippy. On one play, the jostling between Tampa Bay receiver Mike Evans and Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore turned serious. After the play, when Evans’ back was turned, Lattimore shoved him from behind. Evans turned around and appeared to throw a punch at Lattimore, knocking off his helmet. The two began scuffling, and their teammates joined in. The referees had to break up the action before it turned into a brawl:

Lattimore got flagged for unnecessary roughness; the 15-yard penalty went against the Saints. But they recovered rather quickly. A Buccaneers drive stalled when Brady got sacked; their field goal was blocked by a Saints defender. The Saints ended up scoring a field goal of their own to end the half, making the game 17-7.

After halftime, more woes awaited the team. Brady was intercepted again by Saints’ Janoris Jenkins, who returned the ball for a pick-six. That made it 24-7. The Buccaneers rallied to narrow that lead, helped by a 45-yard penalty against the Saints. That set up a touchdown for the Bucs. Brady found tight end O.J. Howard for a 9-yard touchdown to make it 24-14. Later, kicker Ryan Succop nailed a field goal to bring the Bucs within one score.

A volley of sorts ensued: Saints receiver Emmanuel Sanders scored a touchdown to make it 31-17; that was followed by a field goal from Saints kicker Wil Lutz. The Bucs responded when Brady hit receiver Mike Evans for a 2-yard TD. But the Saints recovered an onside kick, and a 38-yard catch by Kamara set up 1st and goal. Kamara rushed in for a touchdown, but it was overturned on replay. (Kamara had stepped out of bounds just nanoseconds before the ball crossed the plane.)

It didn’t matter. Kamara (who just signed a $75 million, five-year extension yesterday, after rumors of a trade) was all smiles. It wasn’t hard to see why. The Saints began their season with a convincing win, 34-23.

Gronk Comes Out of Retirement to Join Brady on Bucs

This is the same face I had when I learned about the trade. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

By Terrance Turner

Last night, former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski appeared on “Watch What Happens Live” (at Home). Host Andy Cohen said rumors were swirling that Gronkowski wanted to join ex-Patriots teammate Tom Brady on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Cohen asked Gronkowski if he was considering coming out of retirement to join Brady on the Bucs.

Gronkowski (aka “Gronk” to fans and teammates) responded equivocally. “Andy, you wanna know what’s so great, man? The day that I retired — within 24 hours — there were already rumors that I was coming out of retirement,” Gronk said. “I’m feelin’ good right now; I’m happy where I’m at–“

“You’re done,” Cohen interjected.

“You just never know, man,” Gronk replied.

“Oh, you never know,” Cohen repeated.

“You never know,” Gronk said. “I’m not totally done.”

He isn’t. The next day, NFL reporter Ian Rapoport confirmed a stunning update:

Earlier this afternoon, NFL insider Ian Rapoport tweeted: “Retired #Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski has told New England that he’s interested in playing football again — and would want to do it with the Bucs and Tom Brady. A trade would have to be worked out for this to happen.” Rapoport later added that Brady was interested in such a deal, too. At 3:21 pm, Rapoport confirmed that the Patriots were trading Gronk and a seventh-round pick to Tampa Bay in exchange for a 4th-round pick.

Gronkowski, 30, played the entirety of his NFL career with the New England Patriots. During the 2011 season, Gronk had 17 touchdown catches — the most ever by a tight end in one season. A Week 13 score was classified as a rushing touchdown, giving him a total of 18 TDs. He became the first (and only) tight end EVER to lead the league in touchdowns. The next season, he tacked on 11 more touchdown receptions, making it his third season in a row with 10 or more TDs. (He would achieve that impressive touchdown feat again in the 2014 and ’15 seasons.)

He won three championships with the New England Patriots in 2015, 2017, and 2019. (He told Cohen that the last match — the 13-3 snoozefest vs. the Rams — was the easiest to win.) It was his 29-yard catch late in Super Bowl LIII that set up the game’s only touchdown (courtesy of teammate Sony Michel). That catch helped him set two more records. His 23 receptions and 297 receiving yards are the most by a tight end in Super Bowl history.

As news broke of the trade, Andy Cohen added another credit to his multi-hyphenate career:

Texans Trade DeAndre Hopkins to Cardinals; Fallout Continues

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By Terrance Turner

The Houston Texans have traded wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals.

The team made the trade in exchange for Cardinals running back David Johnson, a second-round pick, and a fourth-round draft pick. Cardinals will receive a fourth-round pick as part of the trade, according to ESPN.

The move caught many on the Texans by surprise. According to Sports Illustrated, Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson found out about the trade while working out with his personal coach Quincy Avery. Together, Watson and Hopkins had amassed 25 passing touchdowns in 38 games. (They averaged 87 yards a game, according to SI.) Hopkins had over 1100 receiving yards in each of the last three seasons; he collected 31 touchdowns during that period.

There was no reason given for this bizarre move, which stunned the sports world. As ESPN writer Bill Barnwell wrote: “My first instinct when I saw the terms of this trade was to worry whether Hopkins had lost a limb. My second instinct was to give the Texans side of this deal the same grade safety Tyrann Mathieu awarded his former team. This is a jaw-dropping, mind-bending, inexplicable trade for O’Brien, whose bizarre run as Texans general manager is going to be the subject of a 30 for 30 documentary one day.”

Bleacher Report writer Bill Tanier was even more blunt. “Bill O’Brien is a staggeringly terrible general manager. He’s also an awful head coach, as illustrated by his many suspect decisions as the Texans blew a 24-point lead to lose 51-31 to the Chiefs in the AFC divisional round (among other examples in big games),” Tanier wrote. For the Texans, this trade is so bad that it has substrata of badness: Johnson is a damaged-goods running back who lost his starting job last year and is three full years removed from his last productive season. He’s the kind of player who is normally traded to save cap space for a late-round pick, not for a perennial Pro Bowler in his prime with 315 catches and 31 touchdowns in the last three seasons.”

Around the league, reactions were similarly negative. Former Texans player Tyrann Mathieu shook his head:

Texans safety Justin Reid was unimpressed:

The questions surrounding the trade focused on the relationship between Hopkins and Texans head coach/general manger Bill O’Brien, with reports that tensions between the two led to the trade. That narrative went into overdrive this morning, when Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin appeared on ESPN’s “Get Up”. Irvin described a conversation he’d had with Hopkins about the trade. Hopkins reportedly told him that “it was a bit of a power struggle there because Coach O’Brien thought he had too much influence over the locker room,” Irvin said.

The relationship began to deteriorate, Irvin said, after O’Brien called Hopkins into a meeting to hash things out. Irvin claimed that O’Brien had compared Hopkins to former tight end Aaron Hernandez, whom O’Brien worked with while with the New England Patriots. Hernandez famously lost his job after being arrested for murder, of which he was eventually convicted. He committed suicide in prison.

“In that meeting, he started the meeting with telling DeAndre Hopkins this — which blew my mind when DeAndre told me this,” Irvin said. “[O’Brien] told DeAndre Hopkins, he said, ‘Hey, the last time I had to have a meeting like this it was with Aaron Hernandez,’” Irvin said. “I was like, ‘What? He put in Aaron Hernandez in this meeting?’ He said, ‘Yes, he did.’ He said, ‘Michael, that blew my mind that he would even bring that up. I’ve never been in any trouble. I don’t know why he would equate me with Aaron Hernandez.’ And, from there, the meeting just deteriorated.”

Hopkins downplayed the rift on Twitter, writing: “This is being blown way out of proportion. As I’ve said before, I enjoyed and am proud of my time with the Texans. I have the utmost respect for Coach O’Brien and that will not change. Now, I’m ready to play for the Cardinals.”