Earlier this week, the devastating news broke that Rob Gronkowski would have to undergo his third back surgery after suffering his latest injury apparently against the Jets. He supposedly went under the knife Friday afternoon and isn’t expected to play for the remainder of the season, according to the Patriots and the Gronkowski family.
This is obviously a huge hit not just to the offense, but to the entire team. It forces an already struggling defense to somehow step up their game even more and puts pressure on a very banged up offense to now step up their game, as well. Despite all of that, New England is still arguably the best team in the league and are still very much Super Bowl contenders. The question is, even without Gronk, can Brady and company still lead their team to victory? I say yes.
To begin, let’s get the numbers out of the way. Every time Gronk gets sidelined by injury, all that’s talked about is Brady with Gronk versus Brady without Gronk. Though, the numbers do stand out, to be fair.
Brady with Gronk, since 2010:
W/L: 69/17 (I feel as if it’d be very wrong of me to not say “nice”. In honor of Gronk.)
Yards Per Game: 290.8 yds
Completion %: 65.5%
Passer Rating: 104.5
Brady without Gronk, since 2010:
Yards Per Game: 257.8 yds
Completion %: 57.5%
Passer Rating: 84.4
Going into last week’s game against the Jets, Gronk led the team in total yards, yards per game and also had the most receptions going for 25 yards or beyond.
It goes without saying that Gronk’s presence is pretty damn important. He’s easily the second most important player to this team. Now, those numbers without Gronk aren’t necessarily blasphemous and disgusting, but, you know, Tom Brady.
Gronk’s importance to the Patriots even goes beyond statistics and numbers. Anyone and everyone around the team will tell you how great of a teammate and guy he is. He’s obviously a huge locker room presence. Anybody who’s watched even a mere video of him doing or saying just about anything will tell you so much about him. No matter how bad the numbers look or how this loss will impact the team down the stretch, remain calm.
Even without Gronkowski, this Patriots offense is still scary. Tom Brady has the emerging Malcolm Mitchell, Marty Bennett, Chris Hogan, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, James White and Dion Lewis to pass the ball to. Whether it’s a backfield pass, a simple slant route or possibly even a deep pass, Brady has various options across the board, even minus Gronk. Yeah, the downfield threat isn’t really there anymore without Gronk, but Hogan and Mitchell have shown flashes of being possible options for a deep pass.
As far as the game plan goes, we’ve already seen what happens when the Patriots are Gronk-less this, so there probably won’t be many surprises. Even with a healthy and effective Gronk, we’ve seen the team stay rather conservative. Nonetheless, the dynamic absolutely changes from here on out. Who knows what Bennett’s role will be, but New England doesn’t have many options past him at tight end. They have Matt Lengel, James Develin, and I guess Cameron Fleming if need be. Plus, we do have to consider the health of Brady, Bennett, Edelman, etc. It’s basically a guarantee that those guys will continue to play despite the weekly questionable tag.
All the Patriots have to do is do what they do best, keep on winning. Although, doing that without Gronk will create a bumpier road to victory. That near fairytale ending against the Jets won’t happen every time, especially in the playoffs. This team can absolutely still clinch the East, homefield advantage and that first round bye at their current state.
Compared to past years, this Patriots team is more well-off without Gronk. New England got Bennett for a reason, and for a situation like this exactly. I’m definitely no expert, but the Patriots can still crush Roger Goodell’s dreams by winning this Super Bowl. Will it be easy? No. But, is it really ever easy? No. Stay positive, Pats Nation.