The Patriots advanced to another AFC Championship Game with Sunday’s win over the Texans, but they aren’t going to have tight end Rob Gronkowski against the Ravens.
Gronkowski re-injured the left forearm he broke earlier this season and will need to have another surgery to get things right. That means he’ll be out for the rest of the Patriots’ playoff run. It’s a blow to the Patiots offense, to be sure, but it is one that quarterback Tom Brady believes the team can handle after learning how to play without Gronkowski during his earlier absence.
“Sure. I think we put much more time in this year than we — for example, like last year, when we played the Super Bowl, it was our first game without him in two years,” Brady said on WEEI, via ESPNBoston.com. “Not that that’s any excuse because there are no excuses, but there’s an uncertainty of how guys are going to play and step in. Well we know now, we know the types of packages we’ll use and what we’ll do and the different ways we’ll try to find some weakness in the defense based on our groups and so forth.”
The Patriots dealt with the absence of Gronkowski and running back Danny Woodhead just fine. Shane Vereen scored three touchdowns and combined with Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez for 19 catches and 299 yards. That kind of production makes it possible for the Patriots to thrive without Gronkowski in the lineup and they’ll need to keep it up next week to advance to the Super Bowl for the sixth time since Brady became quarterback.