In the midst of a seven-catch, 137-yard, two-touchdown performance, Gronkowski reportedly broke his forearm and could be out for 4-6 weeks. The broken bone was the lone bit of misfortune in an otherwise flawless 59-24 rout, but it will also hold the greatest impact.
Gronkowski had finally overcome a lingering hip injury just before the Patriots’ bye week and returned to his role as the focal point of the offense. But this new ailment could sidetrack the offense’s development yet again.
The day marked a historic milestone for Gronkowski, as his two touchdowns gave him 10 total scores on the season. With at least 10 touchdowns in three consecutive seasons — his first three, mind you — Gronk became the first tight end in NFL history to accomplish the feat.
Now, the Patriots will need to regroup and devise a new strategy as they face the reality of playing the rest of the regular season without their most productive offensive weapon. Something they can ill afford to do.
Gronkowski’s injury couldn’t come at a worse time for the Patriots, as the team is still slowly bringing along fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez in his recovery from an ankle injury. His production, along with that of Wes Welker, Julian Edelman and Brandon Lloyd, also saw the Patriots release Deion Branch over the weekend — a move they may now regret.
New England struggled to replace Hernandez earlier in the season, as his role as a versatile receiving threat has become vital to the success of the offense. But losing Gronk would be even more devastating, as he serves as both a threat in the passing game and as a fortifying blocker along the offensive line.
Recently activated Visanthe Shiancoe should help to fill the void for the time being, but not he, Daniel Fells or Hernandez can really make up for Gronk’s absence. Unless Gronk finds some superhuman recovery power in the next few days — although I wouldn’t out it past him — Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense will likely be without their most dangerous weapon at least for the near future.
In light of the timetable for the injury, the timing might have been a blessing, though. If the break occurred in another week or two, Gronk’s availability for the playoffs might have been in question. A fate the Patriots can endure in the meantime, but likely wouldn’t be able to overcome in the postseason.