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Rob Gronkowski breaks arm, out for season

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will undergo surgery today after re-fracturing his left forearm early in the Patriots 41-28 victory over the Houston Texans. Gronk made his return in the last Patriots game (against the Miami Dolphins) after missing more than a month with the injury. The Pats actually gave Gronkowski more time off than what was initially expected, because they wanted to rest him before the playoffs started.

The loss of Gronk is a huge sting for the Patriots this deep into the playoffs, but that Pats showed that they can win without their star and still put up big points on offense. I mean, they did beat the Houston Texans 42-14 without him, but it’s definitely going to be harder to beat teams like the San Francisco 49ers and, more importantly, the Baltimore Ravens without Gronkowski at Tom Brady’s disposal.

What makes Gronk so valuable to the Patriots is that defenses can key in on Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez easier when Gronk is not on the field. That is something we saw when the Pats played against the Jacksonville Jaguars, because teams with strong coverage against TEs can take Hernandez out of the game and force Brady to look to Welker and Brandon Lloyd more. There’s no problem with focusing in on those two guys, but Lloyd can get taken out of the outside game by top cornerbacks and it’s always better to have more options in the passing game.

The Patriots will lose some solid blocking with the loss of Gronkowski, but Daniel Fells and Michael Hoomanawanui have shown that they are no slouches as blocking themselves. In fact, they are definitely among the best blocking tight ends in the NFL today. Again, it hurts to lose Gronkowski but the Patriots looked just fine on Sunday without him.

You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.

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