Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 11/10/14
FOXBORO, Mass. — Replacing Tom Brady is a near impossible feat — the Patriots came to that harsh realization during the 2008 season — but filling the shoes of Rob Gronkowski will be just as challenging. Gronkowski, who missed five games with a broken forearm earlier this season, reportedly reinjured the arm during Sunday’s win, and is expected to be lost for the rest of the postseason. Now, the Patriots will need to revise their game plan and try to find a way to make up for Gronkowski’s commanding presence, which even Brady admits will not be easy. “We had a whole plan built for him and Woody [Danny Woodhead]. We run the first series of the game and all those plans change,” Brady said of Sunday’s win over the Texans. “Obviously it’s a bummer to lose anybody, but someone of Rob’s importance or Danny’s importance, we need guys to step in and fill the void, whether it’s this game or any game after.” In 11 games this season, Gronkowski caught 55 passes for 790 yards and proved to be Tom Brady’s favorite red zone target with 11 touchdowns. His five-catch per game average can easily be spread out among the surplus of options in the Patriots’ arsenal, but making up for his red zone production will be the true test on the Patriots’ Super Bowl quest. Gronk’s 11 scores were tops among Patriots receivers this season, and even more amazing was that he did it in such limited action. The next closest receiver was Wes Welker with six touchdowns, but he managed that number through a full 16-game slate. So, without Brady’s go-to guy down near the goal line, the Patriots will need to rely on one of their many other playmakers to do just as that title indicates and, well, make plays. Aaron Hernandez will be chief among those replacements, too, fulfilling the Patriots’ motto of “next guy up” in Gronk’s absence. He’s well aware of the challenge that presents. “It’s hard to replace a player like him because he’s a freak of nature. Everyone has to step up and everyone has to keep making plays so we can keep it rolling,” Hernandez said. “It’s a big loss and you can’t replace a player like him.” Hernandez looked fully healthy for the first time in a long time on Sunday, catching six passes for 85 yards and appearing to regain the burst we saw from him before he suffered an ankle injury in Week 2. Last season, Hernandez was a valuable asset to the Patriots’ offense, catching 77 passes and six touchdowns, and if back to full health, he should once again be a key factor. Even in limited time this season, playing just 10 games, Hernandez caught five touchdown passes and has been a reliable third-down target for Brady over the latter half of the season. He is more than capable of handling some of Gronk’s load, but he’ll need some help erasing the void entirely — and that’s where Welker and Brandon Lloyd come in. Welker led the Patriots with eight catches and a personal postseason career-high 131 yards on Sunday, while Lloyd came up big late in the game with some key first-down receptions and even a touchdown grab to help secure the win. The duo will need to continue their solid production and draw pressure away from Hernandez out in space. If all three receivers can continue producing at such a consistent rate, and Michael Hoomanawanui can pick up the blocking load, as he did on Sunday, then Gronkowski’s loss may not feel quite as heavy. Gronkowski is the best tight end in the NFL and the Patriots’ best offensive weapon, so his loss clearly presents a major problem for New England on its hopeful journey to New Orleans. But with weapons like Hernandez, Welker and Lloyd at the ready, Brady is more than equipped to weather the storm. Have a question for Luke Hughes? Send it to him via Twitter at @LukeFHughes or send it here. Vote: Can the Patriots beat the Ravens without Gronk? >>
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Three quarterbacks who could be traded this offseason

Wolves trade Corey Brewer to the Rockets

Yankees trade Prado to Marlins for Eovaldi in 5-player deal

Brandon Browner fined $8K for throwing Brandon Gibson to turf

Report: Sharper, NFLers called spiked drinks 'horny juice'

Rex Ryan: My wife could coach Tom Brady

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Jim Harbaugh won in laser tag by 'hunting' 10-year-old kid

Eddie Lacy is ‘very blind,’ refuses to wear goggles

Michael Phelps pleads guilty to DUI, gets probation

NFL scouts not in love with Amari Cooper?

Report: No teams interested in trading for Lance Stephenson

It is not Chip Kelly's fault if Eagles miss playoffs

Video: Swaggy P elbows Steven Adams in throat, gets ejected

Video: Grizzlies buy car for assistant who had his stolen

Video: LeBron takes pass to the face from Dion Waiters

New video of Ray Rice incident emerges

President Obama calls James Franco “James Flacco”

NBA games of the weekend: Rondo's Dallas debut, Bulls-Grizz

Tuscaloosa students will have two days off if Bama plays in National Championship

Brady scares the **** out of his teammates celebrating

Longhorn Network’s yule log? Five hours of BEVO

Will a Chiefs WR finally catch a TD in Week 16?

Jon Lester and the Cubs

The Toronto Raptors reveal their new logo

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Three quarterbacks who could be traded this offseason

Jon Lester and the Cubs

Report: NFL players used 'horny juice'

Top 10 worst NBA related commercials of all-time

Phelps gets probation for DUI

NFL coaches on hot seat in Week 16

The Roy Williams-Terrell Owens horse collar turns 10

Most underpaid NFL players in 2014

Gronk jokes about Brady compliment

In Matt Kemp, did the Dodgers find a pigeon in Padres?

Why the Saints are legit playoff threat

Impact of U.S.-Cuba relations on MLB

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.