Are the Patriots done with Gronkowski?

By Spencer Brown

The New England Patriots have been battling injuries all season. Surprisingly they have still managed a rather successful season thus far. The latest player to go down, however, could end their hopes at winning a Super Bowl this season.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski tore his ACL and MCL in the Patriots comeback win Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, his latest injury after spending the past few years battling to stay healthy.

The Pats’ star tight end has appeared in seven games this season. He missed the start of the season recovering from surgery and infection to his repaired forearm. In those seven contests, Gronkowski caught 39 catches for 592 yards and four touchdowns. He was averaging 15.2 yards per catch.

As Gronkowski’s health goes, so do the chances of the Patriots in the playoffs.

After his rookie season, Gronkowski has been significantly injured in each of the past three seasons. 

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    In the 2011 season, he appeared in all 16 contests. The Patriots went 13-3 through the regular season. In the Patriots’ first playoff game with Gronkowski, a 45-10 victory over the Denver Broncos, the tight end performed admirably. He caught 10 passes for 145 yards and three touchdowns. He then had five catches for 87 yards in the AFC Championship game against the Baltimore Ravens. Unfortunately, he suffered a high ankle sprain in that game. 

    He was not 100 percent in the Super Bowl, and it showed. Gronkowski amassed a total of 26 yards on two catches as the Pats fell to the New York Giants.

    In 2012, the tight end was on his way to consecutive 1,000 yard receiving season. In Week 11 against the Indianapolis Colts, he broke his forearm. He eventually returned to the field play in Week 17. His comeback was short-lived as he re-injured the forearm in the team’s first playoff game, a 41-28 win over the Houston Texans.

    They would lose the following game, the AFC Championship, 28-13 to the Ravens. 

    The Patriots currently sit at 10-3 as they prepare for life yet again without their best receiver. 

    Let us not forget they have also been without the services of former tight end Aaron Hernandez due to his murder arrest. He was a safety valve for this team in light of Gronkowski’s frequent health problems. That dual threat has been completely eliminated. 

    As the AFC playoff picture stands today, the Patriots will have a first-round bye, along with the Denver Broncos.

    The four teams that would play on Wild Card weekend as of today are the Cincinnati Bengals, Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens.

    The Bengals and Colts boast young quarterbacks. It would be a tall order to expect either Andy Dalton or Andrew Luck to outperform Brady in Foxboro, Mass.

    Kansas City has not performed well as of late, and there is no telling how this team would respond if they get behind early on the road in the playoffs with such an inexperienced team.

    The Ravens have been here before, but not these Ravens. Baltimore’s defense is still formidable, but without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed bearing down, it is safe to say quarterbacks will feel a lot more comfortable. There is no underestimating the heart of a champion, but they may be overmatched here in a possible playoff game at New England.

    The Denver Broncos currently sit atop the standings and double as New England’s biggest threat. If the Pats can clinch home field throughout, it could spell disaster for the Broncos. Though Peyton Manning would be motivated by the embarrassing letdown against the Patriots earlier this season, there is no denying his poor performance in cold weather games. Even if the Patriots have to travel to Denver, Manning’s postseason shortcomings are well documented.  

    The Patriots are in a tough spot without Rob Gronkowski. Coach Bill Belichick and Brady have been known to work miracles before. We’ll see if they have one more in them.

    Spencer is a senior in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected].