The New England Patriots look will probably lose Gronkowski to an ACL Tear. While no official announcement has been made, and is unlikely to be made before an MRI is done tomorrow morning, it has been reported that the suspected injury is a torn ACL. It will clearly be a huge loss for the team if it is true, but one that the team has had to face for more of the season than not. Given that he has only been available to play for a few games, the Patriots coaching staff have had plenty of experience game planning for scenarios that do not involve the popular tight end.
It has not been pretty. It has become a recurring theme in local sports bars for disappointed “pink hat” fans to storm out by half-time, giving up on a positive outcome. The thing that the stalwarts that remain in the bars to watch until the end know, the thing that keeps them unruffled as they order another pint, is that the Patriots don’t mind winning ugly. Impossible come-from-behind victories after looking like a junior varsity team for most of the first half are not unfamiliar to them. In fact, they went ahead and looked terrible for a decent portion of the third quarter, as well, just to change it up.
Their victory over the Deenver Broncos in week 12 looked just as ugly as this week and had some similarities. They lost a significant portion of their offense when running back, Stevan Ridley was benched for excessive fumbles. Ridley was inactive for the game last week, but was on the field again today. Losing key personnel is a way of life for the Patriots. The way the New England Patriots have been playing, they will find a way to win even if they do lose Gronkowski to an ACL tear.
Injuries to Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly have made the defensive line look very different this year, but the Patriots keep on finding a way to win. Aquib Talib in the secondary has struggled with his own injury issues, but has come up with some clutch performances when he has been in. Belichick has done nothing if not maintain a depth chart that may teams in the NFL would kill for. The up-and-down emotional journey that the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick take the fans on keeps them coming back and paying the price of admission. It also keep the opposition on their toes.
Belichick is a master of misdirection. He uses the expectations he has built in anyone who watches him to his advantage. Stevan Ridley is a good example of this. When he was benched in the Broncos game, people across the country began to wonder who he would be playing for the following week. When he was inactive last week, those suspicions
seemed to be confirmed. When we never heard his name called for anything significant in the first half, many believed that Belichick really had given up on their leading rusher. Belichick is like an archer, though, holding the arrow with the line taut and waiting for the target to be perfect before letting go, With Gronkowski hurt late in the game, Ridley had his name called. Just a few plays when he knew that nobody on the field or in the stands would expect it. Juat to remind us that he can.
When Edelman dropped pass after pass in the first half, many thought he would not see a pass again for the rest of the game. Belichick took the opportunity to provide another example of how he uses the expectations of the opposition to beat them., He continued to go with Edelman on important downs and he was able to come up with a touchdown when the game was on the line. The game is as much a mental game as it is physical one for the Patriots coach and he keeps winning. The New England Patriots will probably lose Gronkowski to the ACL tear, and injuries will make the defensive line look like swiss cheese, but ugly wins are still wins.
By Jim Malone