Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 1/14/13
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

Dodgers owner talks trash after sweeping Giants

Evander Kane wins back model girlfriend with billboard

Urban Meyer has 'feeling' who will start at QB

Report: Schilling to return to 'Sunday Night Baseball'

Report: Cardale Jones rushed to hospital with head pain

WATCH: Cubs' Baez swings so hard he falls down

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

WATCH: Boston host jokes Goodell should be murdered

WATCH: Mets get inside-the-park HR after OF flips over wall

Eli Manning remains unfazed about poor preseason

RG3 thinks 'Concussion' movie will 'make a lot of people mad'

Can Darrius Heyward-Bey replace Martavis Bryant for the first month in Pittsburgh?

Treon Harris to start at QB for Gators’ opening game

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

Top 10 storylines for Week 4 of the NFL preseason

Matt Williams is still hopelessly married to the idea of the closer’s role

Five unique CFB games to watch this weekend

Be careful what you wish for, Jay Gruden

Ryan taking leap of faith with Bills

Top 10 storylines for Week 1 of college football season

Underdogs: Hopefuls that can shock in the World Cup

Manfred digs Shoeless Joe a deeper grave

Why Mike Trout ain't right

The Opening Drive: Jamal Anderson warns UM fans before heading to Salt Lake City

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker