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Bruce Arians: Rob Gronkowski 'in the best shape he's been in, in a few years'

In one game in 2021, Rob Gronkowski already looks better than he did at any point in 2020.

The 32-year-old tight end looked like he was in 2015 form, running past linebackers, snagging balls with one hand and Gronk-spiking two TDs in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 31-29 win over the Dallas Cowboys. 

The combination of Gronk and Tom Brady looked unstoppable -- like their New England days.

"Gronk's a hell of a player," coach Bruce Arians said, per the team's official transcript. "Gronk is in the best shape he's been in, in a few years. They have that history. He doesn't have to be looking, Tom is going to throw it at the back of his head, and [Gronkowski] knows it's probably coming there. It's unbelievable chemistry that they have for a long time."

The beautiful chemistry was on display often Thursday night as Gronk caught all eight of his targets for 90 yards and two scores.

After a year away, Gronkowski didn't look right much of last season as it took time to shake off the rust. Even during a solid postseason run, it looked like age had finally caught up. Well, the veteran turned back the clock Thursday, looking spry and sharp in and out of his routes. If he stays healthy, Gronk adds another potent weapon to an already ridiculously stocked Bucs offense.

"He's had a great camp," Brady said of his longtime teammate. "I knew he was going to have a great game tonight and be prepared. Obviously, we went to him there on the two-minute drive. He had a huge catch and run. He is just a great player, just a great attitude, great teammate -- I think everyone in the locker room just loves that guy -- watching him, being with him. And, on and off the field, he's just an amazing guy. Everyone loves seeing guys like that successful. I'm just happy he's loving what he's doing and contributing to the team the way that he is. It was really fun to see tonight."

Gronkowski caught his 99th and 100th career TD receptions from Brady in this game, including playoffs. They joined Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison as the only QB-receiver duos with 100 touchdown connections in NFL history, including playoffs (Manning-Harrison have 114).

Gronk generated his 22nd career game with multiple receiving TD (including playoffs), breaking a tie with Antonio Gates for most by a TE in the Super Bowl era. Gronkowski moves into a tie for sixth at any position in the Super Bowl era with retired/not-exactly-retired Larry Fitzgerald. Jerry Rice leads the way -- as he does in most receiving stats -- with 49 multi-TD games.

"Gronk is a stud," Bucs receiver Chris Godwin beamed after the game. "He's been doing this for his whole career. He amazes me every time because he's so big but he runs so smooth and covers so much ground, and he's so difficult to guard and tackle. I'm glad he's on our team."

Gronk looks like he drank whatever elixir has been keeping Father Time off Brady's back all these years. If the TE stays healthy for 17 games, he could threaten Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Darren Waller for the TE belt.

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