By: Connor Lenahan
I’m not really exaggerating in saying that when Rob Gronkowski went down clutching his knee last night I was terrified. I think that was the most scared that I have ever been due to an injury, and I am counting my own. I have broken my right femur three times, with none of those breaks being particularly pretty, and I was more disheartened by seeing Gronk, the magical being he is, carted off the field than my thigh in two pieces thrice.
But now comes the good news. Despite sobbing myself to sleep – potentially due to late night confusion where I thought Gronk had died rather than gotten injured, an honest, understandable mistake – I awoke, as did the city of Boston, to heartening news. Despite taking a Bronco helmet square to the kneecap and through slo-mo video having his shin flail like a freshly de-oceaned trout, Gronk wasn’t in serious danger.
Actually, comparatively, he’s fine.
Well, okay, that’s not entirely true. Gronk suffered a bruised kneecap and is considered week to week. He was the last injury the Patriots needed, especially after losing Dion Lewis, Julian Edelman, and Danny Amendola in consecutive weeks. He likely won’t play in Week 13 against the Eagles. However, the Eagles just lost 45-14 on Thanksgiving to the Detroit Lions, and Matt Stafford is a hobo’s poor friend’s Tom Brady – and to be clear, Stafford is one of my ten favorite athletes alive.
Gronk is reportedly “week-to-week” which is both ant agonizingly vague and perfectly descriptive. Yeah, sure, he will miss time, but much like Edelman he will be back at some point this season, and that’s where things get really interesting.
The Patriots were knocked off by the Denver Broncos last night in potentially the single worst officiated game of football not only in NFL history, but in American history. But I’m not here to complain. The local dream of going 16-0 was not exactly realistic before half the offense got hurt. Frankly, after reading stories about the 2007 undefeated team and 2014-15’s 38-1 Kentucky Wildcats, I don’t think that pressure helps. Sure, we remember 16-0 more than anything, but going 15-1 en route to a Super Bowl is not half bad. Much the opposite, I am 100% convinced Brady and Belichick would trade one or more of their wins in 2007 for the Super Bowl 42 trophy and ring.
Given this, it is somehow okay that the Patriots lost last night. In the snow, down potentially the best offensive player in football, on the road, against a terrific defense, and, again, in the snow. This wasn’t a particularly great game, but the fact the Pats almost won in Denver while starting likely the worst receiving corps in the league heading into OT is no joke.
With that in mind, who stands to challenge the Patriots the most in the AFC? It’s the Bengals, right? In that case, we would be talking about Tom Brady vs. Andy Dalton, and that’s not a conversation. I know that’s making it too easy, but this season if any I do not bet against New England. Additionally, the thought of a suddenly healthy Gronk, Edelman, and Amendola trio heading into elimination games has to have Dalton getting night sweats.
Better yet, the Patriots are playing angry, and Rob Gronkowski is the perfect specimen to go and single handedly take over games. He is the single most physically unstoppable force in the game, and JJ Watt is the closest comparison to him. Gronk not being hurt is not just good for New England, but good for football. The Patriots, love them or likely hate them, are the most interesting team in the game for that previous reason. The fact they are so good, for so long, and the subject of so much controversy, while also so historically great, makes them the perfect team for Super Bowl 50.
What I’m trying to say is this: Rob Gronkowski’s near miss was the best thing for the Patriots and the worst thing for the rest of the league. Come playoff time, the best team in the AFC will be back, angry, and literally willing to do anything to win. The millisecond Belichick gives the go ahead of “Gronk, Smash” we need to start fitting Brady’s thumb for ring #5.