Rob Gronkowski somersaulted into the end zone, staggered to his feet and still managed to spike the football.
“I was just fine,” the Patriots star tight end said. “I just got the wind knocked out of me a little bit.”
New England was more than fine after looking groggy on offense early in the game before finishing big with a 34-3 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Foxborough, Mass., on Monday night.
Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes to Gronkowski, who has five in his past three games. Julian Edelman returned a punt 72 yards for another score and Kyle Arrington had two of the Patriots’ three interceptions.
“We try to be a very opportunistic defense,” Arrington said, “and when plays like that present themselves, you’ve got to capitalize on them. And if I can get into the end zone one of these times, that would be good, too.”
The Patriots (7-3) didn’t need him to do that on Monday when they increased their AFC East lead to two games.
The Chiefs (4-6) weren’t expected to do much on offense behind untested quarterback Tyler Palko, who threw three interceptions in his first career start with Matt Cassel injured. And they didn’t, managing just a 26-yard field goal by Ryan Succop with 1:30 left in the first quarter for their only lead.
With Gronkowski collecting his ninth and 10th TD receptions of the season, the Patriots had their second straight dominant game after beating the New York Jets 37-16. The Chiefs lost their third straight.
The Patriots didn’t generate much of an attack during their first four series. There were three punts and a fumble by Brady that was recovered by Kansas City’s Allen Bailey on the first play of the second quarter. And on his next series, Brady was sacked twice.
“Obviously, the first half we didn’t do anything,” Brady said. “I don’t think it could have gotten much worse.”
But the protection improved and Brady, who had thrown for just 19 yards in the first quarter, took advantage, leading three consecutive scoring drives.
Gronkowski has 20 touchdowns in 26 games, surpassing Mike Ditka’s mark of 31 for the fewest games needed by a tight end to reach 20 touchdowns. He also pulled within three of the single-season, tight end record of 13 touchdown receptions held by Antonio Gates of San Diego and Vernon Davis of San Francisco.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has a broken thumb, Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck is dealing with an injured right arm, and Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has a high left ankle sprain.
Those three stars were injured in games Sunday, placing their status in doubt not only for next weekend’s games, but for a longer term.
Raiders receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was feeling better a day after being carted off the field with his neck stabilized after a scary collision with Minnesota linebacker E.J. Henderson.
Cutler will undergo surgery on his right hand, a major blow for a team contending for a playoff spot in the NFC. Coach Lovie Smith said Cutler will be out “for an extended time.”
“Is it a season-ending injury? No,” Smith said Monday. “From what I’ve been told right now, we can expect him back at the end of the regular season.”
Hasselbeck has no structural damage to his right forearm and elbow and likely will try to throw this week to see if he can play against Tampa Bay. He was hurt during the 23-17 loss in Atlanta when he hit his arm on a defender’s helmet.
On Monday, Kansas City placed its starting quarterback, Matt Cassel, on injured reserve with a broken right hand.
Peterson will be in a walking boot this week, leaving his availability for Sunday’s game at Atlanta in question. Peterson has a Grade 1 sprain, the least severe of the three categories, with “a little bit of” ligament damage, coach Leslie Frazier said. Peterson will wear the boot for a few days to protect the joint and won’t try to practice until Friday.
Jets’ Ryan fined
The NFL came down hard on Jets coach Rex Ryan, fining him $75,000 for screaming a profanity at a fan.
Ryan made the foul-mouthed remark during halftime of the Jets’ Nov. 13 loss to the Patriots at MetLife Stadium after a fan suggested Patriots coach Bill Belichick is superior to Ryan at his job.
Ryan, who wasn’t exactly in a chipper mood at the time, responded with an obscenity, a move he has said he regretted.