The New England Patriots can do special things in 2017 even without one of the league’s most dominant players.
Midway through the 3rd quarter of Super Bowl 51, we thought we were finally seeing the wheels of New England’s high powered offense come off, with Atlanta being the team to finally expose how much Tom Brady and the New England Patriots relied on Rob Gronkowski.
The superstar tight end was shut down for the season due to a back injury after the team’s Week 12 game against the Jets. But from that point up until the big game in Houston, the Patriots offense never seemed to miss him.
Then, the Atlanta Falcons defense, which was supposed to be the weak link of the NFC champions, held Tom Brady’s high octane offense to just three points through the first 42 minutes of Super Bowl 51. Tom Brady’s lack of accuracy early on was a big reason for the offense’s struggles, but many analysts were quick to point out how losing Gronkowski had to eventually hurt this team in a big way, and it was happening now.
Then the greatest comeback in NFL history took place. Everyone forgot about Gronk, as Brady used Chris Hogan, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, James White, Malcolm Mitchell, and Martellus Bennett to score 31 unanswered points and stun the entire sports world.
Once the focal point of New England’s offense, Gronk is now seen as just another addition that should make the defending champs even better in 2017. The only key pass catcher they will not be returning this year is Martellus Bennett, who they replaced with Dwayne Allen, a downgrade but good player nonetheless.
Of course, the big story is the addition of Brandin Cooks, who might be better than any receiver they had on the roster, as good as that group already was. Dion Lewis could also make this offense even more dominant if he can get anywhere near his 2015 self. Even Andrew Hawkins, who led Browns receivers in receptions and yards in 2014, could play a role if one or two guys were to go down.
The bottom line is, the Patriots offense wouldn’t skip a beat without Gronk on the field this year. Even if he has another injury riddled season, it would be a big surprise if New England doesn’t still finish first in most offensive categories. It may sound cruel, but Brady will put up video game numbers in 2017 with or without his All-Pro tight end.