This is an easy one to pin the blame on. New England was up 52-24 with less than four minutes to go when running back Shane Vereen ran it in from four yards out for a touchdown.
Rob Gronkowski would come out to help block for a Patriots extra point, and on the play would wind up breaking his left forearm, per Adam Schefter.
As @tomecurran reported, Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski broke his forearm. Am told he did it on the Patriots' last extra point.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 19, 2012
The injury will likely keep Gronkowski out for four to six weeks, removing a vital cog not only in New England's prolific pass offense, but also their much-improved run offense.
It didn't have to be that way. Yes, it was a freak occurrence, but what makes it hurt more for the Patriots was that it occurred when Gronkowski wasn't needed—on an extra point attempt up 35 points at the end of the fourth quarter.
This is on Bill Belichick, a man who usually would know better. Outside of quarterback Tom Brady, Gronkowski is the most important player to the Patriots' offense. He's not only as close to automatic as you can get in the red zone, but he also opens the offense up for the other receivers like Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd.
Aaron Hernandez is expected back for New England's Thanksgiving Night showdown with the New York Jets, but while Hernandez has been great with New England in his first two seasons, he's at his best with a healthy Gronk by his side, taking away some of the coverage. The two weren't drafted by Belichick as contingency plans in case one of them wound up getting hurt or ineffective, but rather as a tandem to devastate opposing defenses.
Gronkowski is what makes that tandem so successful, and while Hernandez will pick up some of the slack, it won't be as much as New England would need.
So why Coach Belichick, why was Gronkowski on the field for that play? I understand him being a part of that field-goal package for various reasons (he blocks well and would be effective in a fake), but that was not the time for him to be on the field.
The rewards wouldn't have been worth nearly enough as the downside. Now the Patriots will be without one of their most important players as they fight for a bye week in the postseason. If the injury keeps him out for six weeks, we might be looking at the possibility of Gronkowski not coming back until the playoffs, thus making a bye week even more important than before.
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