At the end of an otherwise satisfying win over the Indianapolis Colts, Rob Gronkowski went down with a broken forearm. I can’t help but wonder whether the New England Patriots’ hopes of a Super Bowl went down with him.
Rob Gronkowski is a large, powerful man. You’d think the injury that would take him out would be a loud and massive collision, the result of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object. But no, it was an innocent play at the end of the game, Gronkowski blocking for nothing more significant than an extra point, No. 59 on the Patriots’ side of the ledger.
When the TV cameras showed the big guy going toward the locker room with just a few minutes left in the game, you had to figure it was for an equipment adjustment. Or maybe it was for a quick re-taping after a minor injury. Perhaps a bathroom break? And then came the word of a broken forearm and four to six weeks of rehab.
Four weeks from now, the Pats will be playing the 49ers, and in six weeks there will be Dolphins on the Foxboro menu. But just like last year’s Super Bowl, in which the Gronk managed to gut it out and make an appearance, how effective will he be upon his return?
It’s not as if the Patriots are short on tight ends. In an almost prophetic way, Bill Belichick has been stockpiling them against the chance of injuries to Aaron Hernandez and Gronkowski.
Each with a name more difficult to spell and pronounce, we have Daniel Fells, Visanthe Shiancoe, and Michael Hoomanawanui. And if Mike Ditka hadn’t just suffered a stroke—get well, Mike—my guess is that Bill would have made a call to him, too.
Stretching the first law of thermodynamics, which says that the amount of energy in a system stays constant over time, perhaps the subtraction of Rob Gronkowski will be accompanied by the addition of Aaron Hernandez.
It’s the old cliché: When the starter goes down, the next guy has to step in and step up. The Patriots defense looked pretty effective after Chandler Jones went out. Logan Mankins has been out more often than he’s been in, and the offensive line has looked pretty good. Depth is the key to success in the NFL, and the Patriots have it at TE.
After the “bad Patriots” barely held on against the Buffalo Bills last week, the “good Patriots” re-emerged against the Colts. It would make for a nice Thanksgiving dessert if these guys can overcome injury and show their positive side once again on Thursday against the hated New York Jets.
For now, I’ll stay hopeful.