Breaking Down What Loss of Aaron Hernandez Means for Tom Brady, Patriots

Lou RomContributor ISeptember 17, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 16:   Aaron Hernandez #81 of the New England Patriots is taken from the field after suffering an injury against Arizona Cardinals in the first half at Gillette Stadium on September 16, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Most teams would suffer tremendously after the loss of a versatile tight end like Aaron Hernandez.

Just how much that loss will hurt the equally versatile New England Patriots is up for debate.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick was mum Monday on the immediate future for Hernandez, who went down in the first quarter of Sunday's shocking home loss to the Arizona Cardinals with an ankle injury. 

But one less target for Brady means defenses can turn their attention—at least a little more—to the Patriots other offensive threats, most notably, fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Hernandez racked up nearly 1,000 yards last season as Brady's No. 2 option at tight end, hauling in 79 passes and seven TDs.

Gronkowski, of course, set an NFL-record for tight ends with 1,327 yards receiving.

Gronkowski is the better blocker, but Hernandez is the guy who keeps defenses guessing—lining up in the slot, at wide receiver and in the backfield.

Gronkowski was his usually reliable self Sunday, pulling down six passes for 75 yards and a touchdown.

But the Patriots, who struggled to get into the end zone against the Cardinals in the 20-18 loss, will need every weapon they have in order to beat the Baltimore Ravens on the road on Sunday night.

Clearly, Hernandez will be missed

But the Patriots are no ordinary team. Tom Brady is no ordinary quarterback. And Bill Belichick is no ordinary coach.

These may not be the Patriots of 10 years ago, but this team finds a way to get up off the mat and fight back when a victory is needed.

Belichick will craft a game plan that keeps the Ravens guessing, Brady will show up in the big game and the Patriots will be in this one down to the wire.

As for predictions, well, it's a little too early for that.