In defeating the Houston Texans 41-28 Sunday evening, the New England Patriots advanced to the AFC championship game where they will host the Baltimore Ravens in a rematch of last year’s championship game. Behind the celebrations over the victory there will be a cause for concern because three key Patriots players were injured with one done for the season. The Patriots have dealt with tough injuries all year and may be able to succeed without them but it will make the job much tougher.
The first injury is the most significant. On just the seventh offensive snap of the game, star tight end Rob Gronkowski landed on his formerly injured forearm as he dove attempting to make a catch. After being sidelined for a while it was revealed that the forearm is broken again and will require surgery ending his postseason. Gronkowski previously broke his forearm in Week 11 against the Indianapolis Colts during the team’s final extra point of the game.
During the 2012 season, Gronkowski was the most productive tight end in the NFL. In just 11 games, he recorded 55 receptions for 790 yards and 11 touchdowns. If he had played all 16 games, he would’ve at least come close to matching his record setting numbers from a year ago. It looked as though he had returned healthy just in time as he played the final game of the regular season but is now out for the year.
Rookie defensive end Chandler Jones was the first draft pick for the Patriots in 2012. From the moment he stepped on field in training camp Jones turned heads showing he would be a big part of the Patriots success in 2012. The rookie was having a big year before he was injured in week 11 which forced him out of the following two games. He returned and after having a big game against the Miami Dolphins in the final game of the season looked to be back to his old self. Jones left Sunday’s game in the second quarter after injuring his ankle. Right now it’s unclear whether it’s related to his previous ankle injury or will keep him out next week.
The third key injury was to running back Danny Woodhead. Woodhead has been a threat both in the running game and in the passing game for the Patriots. After taking a carry on the Patriots first offensive snap of the game Woodhead injured his thumb. Like Jones he didn’t return but remained on the sidelined following a brief visit to the training room and his availability for next week is unknown.
While the Patriots win over the Texans advancing to the AFC championship game is a success, they lost three key players which creates a cause for concern. The extent of Jones and Woodhead’s injuries are unknown but the most important one for the Patriots is to Gronkowski who has been lost for the remainder of the postseason. The Patriots may be able to win without the trio if need be but it will be much harder than was previously expected.