The New England Patriots went into the AFC championship game Sunday night without two of their best players. It was a theme that followed the team all season and ultimately contributed to their demise. Throughout the 2012 season the Patriots only played two games with full health, the first week and the last week of the regular season. It was a trend that haunted the AFC favorites all season long.
The defense suffered key injuries to players such as defensive end Chandler Jones and safety Steve Gregory, but the offense was what suffered the most. Star players who the Patriots have depended on for the past two years were kept out by injury for several weeks forcing the team to completely change their style and that eventually contributed to the end of their season.
Going into the 2012 season, the Patriots were expected to depend on their duel tight end system that was so successful in 2011 and has since been adopted by several other teams. But Aaron Hernandez suffered an ankle injury in Week 2 and Rob Gronkowski suffered a broken forearm in Week 11. Overall the pair of Pro Bowlers missed 11 combined games in the regular season. Then last week Gronkowski broke the same forearm again on the team’s first drive ending his postseason before it was able to begin.
Another early key offensive injury was to wide receiver Julian Edelman. After months of failed negotiations with star Wes Welker, the Patriots coaching staff relegated Welker to third receiver behind newly acquired Brandon Lloyd and Edelman. And Edelman responded starting the season strong until he suffered a broken hand in Week 3. That injury kept him out for four games. Then in Week 13 he suffered another injury, this time a broken foot, which ended his season.
The injuries that kept the Patriots offense most off balance in 2012 was to their offensive line. During the off-season the team lost veterans Matt Light and Brian Waters leaving Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer as the only starters returning. Both were injured during training camp and were never fully healthy during the season each missing multiple games.
The Patriots went into 2012 expecting to repeat as AFC champions, so a 12-4 record would not have been surprising. However, the team had to deal with many key injuries that would’ve forced other teams to give up. But the Patriots prevailed winning the AFC East again and securing the No. 2 seed in the conference. Eventually the injuries became too much and were a major contribution to the lack of offensive production Sunday night ending their season.