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AFC Championship Game: Could this be Rob Gronkowski's final season?

Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots stands

Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots stands on the sidelines against the Giants on Aug. 30, 2018. Credit: Getty Images/Jeff Zelevansky

Rob Gronkowski has only known winning throughout his NFL career, but he’s appreciating it more as he gets older.

The big tight end is in his ninth — and perhaps last season — and the Patriots are playing in their eighth straight AFC Championship Game on Sunday.

“When you’re a young buck, really young, you feel like you’re going to be here for a while,” Gronkowski said. “Now, seeing everything, seeing how fast it goes, you know how much work it takes to get to this level. As you get older, you’ve got to put more work into it to get this far, to get to this stage, to get to the championship game. You feel accomplished when it happens.

“You know you can’t take it for granted. You just can’t take anything for granted at all.”

One of the many storylines in this Patrios-Chiefs game is Gronkowski’s future.

The NFL Network reported that Gronkowski strongly will consider retiring after this season. Gronkowski has said he’s only focused on this game, and that he’s “all-in right now.”

He also considered retirement last year but he announced he would return during the 2018 NFL Draft.

It’s been somewhat of a down year for Gronkowski. He played in 13 games. His 47 catches were the fourth fewest in his career and he matched a career low with three touchdown receptions.

In the Patriots’ divisional round win over the Chargers last week, Gronkowski caught one pass. But he blocked well for their running attack.

Gronk is always dangerous, though, and could have a bigger role Sunday in what could be his last game. 

Championship Hunt

Andy Reid has raised the George Halas trophy for winning the NFC championship with the Eagles. But it would have special meaning for Reid if he could hand the Lamar Hunt trophy to the Hunt family.

The Chiefs are owned by Clark Hunt, the son of Lamar Hunt, who founded the AFL and for whom the AFC championship trophy is named.

“It’d be great,” Reid said. “That’d be great. When it has your name on it that’s a pretty big thing. Lamar Hunt was special. I think it’s special for the National Football League and then obviously special if he’s your father.

“To have the opportunity to work with his kids and Clark [Hunt] in particular, I understand the importance of that. Not that he has to tell me, he doesn’t have to say anything, and he hasn’t said anything.”

The Chiefs never have won the Lamar Hunt trophy. They’ve been to the Super Bowl twice – after the 1966 and 1969 seasons. The AFC championship trophy was named after Lamar Hunt in 1984.


Chiefs all-time record against the Patriots. 

Weathering the storm

At the start of the week, an Arctic blast was forecasted for Kansas City: temperatures in the single digits and wind chill below zero. But then meteorologists said it might be warmer than expected — around 20 at game time.

Both teams have played in the cold, snow, you name it. And Bill Belichick didn't share his thoughts on how the weather would affect his team or the play-calling.

“Love to play in a championship game,” Belichick said. “Schedule it wherever you want. We’ll be there.”

Head coach in waiting

Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy has been critical to Patrick Mahomes’ development and is deserving of a head coaching job, Reid said. Bieniemy interviewed for several openings, including the Jets vacancy that was filled by Adam Gase,

“I thought maybe this year he would [get hired] before all the spots were filled. I was hoping for him,” Reid said. “He sure is deserving. I think he’s been unbelievable. He’s in the room with Patrick every day and I couldn’t give bigger praise for him.”

Mahomes said Bieniemy has “helped me a ton. He’s a special coach with how he’s able to break down the film and explain it to me.”

Tale of the Tape

Patriots                                                        Chiefs

11-5                 Record                                 12-4

393.4 (5th)     Total Offense                    425.6 (1st)

27.3 (4th)       Points per game                35.3 (1st)

51                  Total TDs                           71

359.1 (21st)    Total Defense                    405.5 (31st)

20.3 (7th)       Points Allowed                  26.3 (24th)

 10                    Super Bowls                         2

   5                   Super Bowl wins                    1

2018          Last SB appearance                     1970

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