Patriots

Bedard: They do it differently, but tight ends Gronkowski, Kelce could have Super impact

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Personality-wise, they're pretty similar. Not exactly a threat to the smartest NFL players to ever play, they do like to have a lot of fun on and off the field. They're serious at their craft, but they don't take themselves too seriously.

On the field, they technically play the same position and wear the same number 87, but they've always done it differently.

Rob Gronkowski has been the prototypical two-way tight end, in that his blocking has been as good or better than his receiving. There have been faster and smoother receiving tight ends, but Gronkowski has hands as good as any receiver, and his size and catch radius were off the charts.

"I always thought that was part of the game; I've been blocking since high school," Gronkowski said this week. "It was kind of like a thing in high school actually like whenever you had a big block or you pancake someone or you absolutely leveled someone like it was a thing ... everyone would rewind it we'd all be watching and we'd all be cheering. We always thought that was cooler than scoring a touchdown. So I think that's where it started when I was in Buffalo. I feel like that's where it was installed in me so I loved, I loved the block."

Travis Kelce has always been a receiver dressed up as a tight end. He's never been asked to block very much, he's not good at it, and he hasn't shown much interest in it.

“I’m sitting here and I listen to everybody tell me I’m a wide receiver,” Kelce said this week. “I’m like, 'Call me whatever you want to call me.' I’m a football player that’s out there being accountable for his teammates. I’m doing what my coaches on my team ask me to do, and that’s just try to win my matchups when presented them.”

Everyone should know, from this story from three seasons ago, where I stand on Gronk vs. Kelce:

Looking at the way the Patriots used Gronkowski in this game, you could almost hear Belichick snorting as he looked over all the quotes about Kelce and Gronkowski and then yelling down the hall to McDaniels to say, “Hey Josh, shut all these people up.”

Because what you saw on Sunday night was a clinic in what it means to be a complete tight end in the NFL. See, in order to be considered an NFL tight end, one needs to block and block well — or at least well enough for his own team to actually use him as a blocker. If not, that “tight end” is actually a receiver.

There was one tight end on the field at Gillette. The other guy had a dating show.

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It’s long been said that you can tell everything you need to know about a player’s strengths and weaknesses based on how his coaches — who know the player best — utilize him.

Kelce was asked to block on nine of the Chiefs’ 53 plays (17 percent), and four of their 17 running plays (23.5 percent). He also wasn’t targeted in the fourth quarter.

Gronkowski was asked to block on 63.5 percent of his total snaps, and 74.5 percent of the Patriots’ running plays. And he caught both of his targets for 81 yards at the most important juncture of the game.

Same position. Different styles of play. But either — and quite possibly both — of these likely Hall of Fame tight ends could have a profound effect on the outcome of Super Bowl LV.

It's no secret how