Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett Are Building a Beautiful Bromance

Gronkowski and Bennett are an unstoppable duo at tight end for the Patriots.

Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski Photo by Stephan Savoia / AP

Martellus Bennett is one of the most intellectual players in the NFL. Rob Gronkowski, meanwhile, is obsessed with the number “69.” Despite those differences, they’re building a beautiful bromance—and terrorizing defenses on a weekly basis.

That was the case Sunday, when the Patriots defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 35-17 in Tom Brady’s homecoming. The Patriots’ offense was stagnant in the first half, but then Brady started finding Gronkowski and Bennett over the middle of the field. It didn’t take long for the game to open up.

Following Dont’a Hightower’s safety midway through the third quarter, Brady completed six consecutive passes to the two tight ends, including Gronkowski’s first touchdown reception of the season. After a long hiatus, the Gronk Spike returned with a vengeance.

Ever since Bill Belichick selected Daniel Graham and Benjamin Watson in the first rounds of the 2002 and 2004 NFL Drafts, he’s aimed to build a two-headed monster at tight end. Aaron Hernandez was previously Gronkowski’s most explosive partner at the position, but Bennett is in the process of leapfrogging him. In two games with Brady this season, Gronkowski and Bennett have combined for 23 catches with 384 yards and four touchdowns. Their dominance is a big reason why Brady has posted two of the best performances of his career since returning from his four-game Deflategate suspension.

In addition to creating space for Gronkowski to operate on the football field, Bennett seems to be challenging him mentally as well. When the two drove to training camp together this summer—Bennett hitched rides with his new teammates on a daily basis in order to bond with them —they discussed the importance of books. The Providence Journal‘s Mark Daniels writes that Gronkowski credits Bennett for making him want to read:

“Just about creativity. How he reads books,” Gronkowski said [about his chats with Bennett]. “I was just thinking, everyone that reads books says they love reading books. It got me thinking that I want to go down that path. It feels like it keeps your mind rolling with ideas. That’s great to have.”

As different as the two men appear to be off the football field, they’re both unstoppable beasts on it when at full strength. That might be why Gronkowski became unglued when Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict tried to take out Bennett’s ankles during the third quarter Sunday. At 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, Gronkowski is used to defenders hitting him low. He jawed at Burfict for the rest of the game after the dirty hit, eventually earning himself an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty

After the game, Bennett said it was nice to know Gronkowski is in his corner. “We always have each other’s backs,” he said. “Things happen in the game … Gronk’s like, ‘Bro, I got you.'”

It’s not easy to get on Bennett’s good side. He and his brother Michael—the equally outspoken and talented Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman—ripped many of their former teammates in an ESPN the Magazine piece that ran in August and an E:60 interview that aired last week. Bennett went after his tight end partner in Dallas, Jason Witten, going as far as saying he “hated him” when they played together.

So far, there’s been nothing but love between Bennett and Gronkowski. They even say they like how much the other one sweats. With the way they’ve been playing since Brady’s return, coaches around the league must be perspiring at the thought of trying to contain these two behemoths.