Rob Gronkowski’s departure from Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns left the Patriots offense searching for answers. (NFL Game Rewind)
NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas
The New England Patriots are chasing continuity. But in a sport predicated on speed, power and physicality, continuity is elusive. From one game to the next, teams battle against attrition.
And attrition is undefeated.
Versus the Cleveland Browns in Week 14, that sentiment was illustrated once again. The Patriots offense, already without right tackles Sebastian Vollmer and Marcus Cannon, backup tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, as well as wide receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins, found itself without two-time All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski.
With 8:32 left to play in the third quarter, Gronkowski caught a 21-yard pass from quarterback Tom Brady before his right leg caught the shoulder of Browns safety T.J. Ward. The towering, 6’6”, 265-pound target was taken to the hospital, and on Monday, New England’s worst fears were confirmed.
Gronkowski’s 2013 season was over after just seven games, and in turn, his health for 2014 was cast in a shadow of doubt. He had torn his ACL and MCL.
But on Dec. 8, the Patriots didn’t have time to process the future. All the Patriots could do was respond over the remaining 18 minutes – without Gronkowski’s 39 catches, 592 yards and four touchdowns, his unremitting double- teams, and his blocking prowess.
Head coach Bill Belichick, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and the undermanned offensive personnel did respond. And by using a similar procedure, New England surged to defeat the Browns in the final seconds, 27-26. (more…)