Rob Gronkowski fractured his forearm blocking on an extra point when the Patriots were already up 58-24. Belichick hadn’t taken his starters out of the game yet with four minutes remaining and the game completely out of reach for the Colts. Belichick always uses his starters on special teams, but risking Gronkowski on a meaningless play has been looked down upon by many New England fans. Some fans have also questioned why the Patriots were running up the score late in the game, but by the end the Patriots were mostly running the ball.
Rajon Rondo was left in late after suffering an ankle injury earlier in the season just to increase his double-digit assists streak. The Pistons were up by twenty points at the time, and Rivers specifically drew up a play in order to get Rondo his 10th assist, and increase his streak to 34 games. Rondo has commented that he cares about the steak and wants it to continue, but Rivers could have made the decision to pull him to not risk injury. Paul Pierce injured his ankle the same night with three minutes remaining in a game that the Pistons were winning 96-77. While freak injuries can happen at any time, the longer players stay in during meaningless scenarios, the more risk there is.
Gronkowski wound up getting hurt, while Rondo didn’t, but hindsight is 20/20. While Gronkowski is an important part of the Patriots’ offense, the Celtics revolve around Rondo. After already rolling his ankle once this year, keeping Rondo in to prolong a meaningless streak seemed dangerous.
Gronkowski is one of the best blockers on the Patriots, and some may view Belichick’s decision as wise. There could be more injury risk if a player busts through a blown block, than simply expecting an injury for a player doing an everyday task like blocking. Gronk’s injury truly was a freak occurrence, as injuries rarely happen on extra point attempts.
For the Celtics, it seemed the game was completely out of reach, and it may be wise to rest your players more in general early in the season, and especially when the game is out of hand. Of course, Rondo didn’t get hurt this time, but how far will Rivers and Rondo go to increase the streak?
So who do you think made the more questionable decision? Should Belichick have replaced Gronkowski with one of the Patriots’ many other tight ends? Or should Rivers care more about keeping his team healthy than individual honors?