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Tom Brady: Rob Gronkowski is 'absolutely' back

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Rob Gronkowski headlined our Week 3 Snap Report because he was receiving less playing time than blocking specialist Michael Hoomanawanui in the New England Patriots' early-season dink-and-dunk offense.

Returning from reconstructive knee surgery, Gronkowski wasn't running a full route tree, couldn't separate from coverage and failed to make defenders miss after the catch.

We started to see signs that Gronk was recapturing pre-injury form when he racked up 100 yards on six receptions in a tight-end centric offense versus the Bengals in Week 5.

After the two-time All-Pro selection caught seven more passes for 94 yards -- including a go route down the right sideline -- in Sunday's victory at Buffalo, Tom Brady was convinced his difference-making go-to target was back.

"Oh yeah, he's back," Brady said after Sunday's game, via ESPN.com. "Absolutely.

Gronkowski ran intermediate and deep routes, made sharp cuts, forced missed tackles, absorbed crushing hits and had a leaping 18-yard touchdown nullified by penalty. In short, he looked like the player who led the league in red-zone touchdowns, quarterback-to-receiver completion percentage and yards after catch over his first three NFL seasons.

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"He's a great option out there," Brady added. "So if they don't cover him, he usually gets it. If they put extra guys on him then it frees everybody else up. He's tough to stop. You put a safety on him, he's got size. You put a linebacker on him, he's got speed. He's been that way since he got into the NFL."

When Brady welcomed Gronkowski back from multiple elbow surgeries last season, his offense vaulted past Peyton Manning's to lead the NFL with an average of 35.75 points and 473 over a five-game span in October and November.

Since Gronkowski broke four tackles on one play late in the blowout loss to the Chiefs, the Patriots have averaged 40 points and 450 yards the last two weeks.

Gronk is indeed back -- which will hopefully spare us from any more contrived narratives claiming the end is nigh for Brady.

We recap all the Week 6 action on a jaunty edition of the "Around The NFL Podcast." Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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