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? >>
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Brandon Prust rips referee, accuses him of on-ice trash talk

LeBron James ditched headband to look more like teammates

Report: Stephen Curry to be named NBA MVP

Milwaukee Brewers fire manager Ron Roenicke

Drafted player changes Twitter name to ‘Pick 245′

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Chip Kelly: Tim Tebow is here to compete for a job

Report: Nigel Williams-Goss transferring to Gonzaga

Philly store offering Eagles 'jersey insurance'

Chris Paul listed as questionable for Game 1 vs. Rockets

Mayweather beats Pacquiao by unanimous decision

Did Evan Mathis respond to Chip Kelly's slight with barb?

Wizards deserve credit for win, but don't reach too much into it

Here's why Mayweather-Pacquiao was business as usual

Floyd Mayweather Punch Out mock video game is great

WATCH: Tony Allen walks through children performing, gets booed

Lindsey Vonn and Tiger Woods have broken up

WATCH: Two games end with baserunners hit by batted balls

WATCH: Damian Lilliard delivers great graduation speech

Jets do not envision Bryce Petty starting in 2015

Clippers beat Spurs on Chris Paul shot in Game 7

Jimmy Kimmel's Manny Pacquiao T-shirt goes viral

Big fight packs airport, leaves no room for planes

Pete Carroll discusses Russell Wilson's contract status

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.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Drafted player changes Twitter name to ‘Pick 245′

Floyd Mayweather Punch Out mock video game is great

Report: Steph Curry to be NBA MVP

Kelly: Tebow here to compete for job

Tony Allen booed for being rude?

Lindsey Vonn, Tiger Woods break up

Pacquiao fought with injured shoulder?

Winners and losers from the NFL draft

Report: Zac Stacy traded to Jets

Hardy apologizes for joke about 9/11

Jerry Jones sends letter to Pacquiao

Mayweather bans Beadle, Nichols

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.