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

Jim Mora turns P. Diddy fight into recruiting pitch for UCLA

Illinois releases results of women's basketball probe

Richie Incognito named starter by Rex Ryan

DeMarco Murray isn't thrilled Eagles limited reps in practice

Brandon Weeden: 'God forbid I am forced to play' for Dallas

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Ben Roethlisberger: Markus Wheaton is ready to break out

Hernandez tipster allegedly had sexual relationship with him

Rookie WR Tyler Lockett has Pete Carroll, Seahawks gushing

Packers TE returns to practice in wake of family tragedy

DeSean Jackson: Revis, Sherman can't stop me

Rob Gronkowski on Patriots LB Jamie Collins: ‘He’s a freak’

Lindsey Vonn shows support for Tiger Woods on Twitter

Report: Rousey to star in film based on her autobiography

Porn star offers to cook meal for any sports champion

Why everyone is wrong about Cowboys Tony Romo, Part 1

Oregon was only team drug tested during CFB Playoff?

Five 2nd year NBA players ready to take the next step

John Daly wants to be US Ryder Cup captain

Rodgers appears in another Olivia Munn workout video

Matt Hasselbeck is still getting random drug tests

Five teams that won at the MLB trade deadline

What should be expected from Aaron Rodgers in 2015?

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is waiting for Tim Duncan to match him

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

Lindsey Vonn shows support for Tiger

Notre Dame doesn't need a conference

Rex takes jabs at Jets' management

Sanchez: It's 'crazy' to call Chip racist

Ronda Rousey calls out Cyborg

Five most underrated players in the NFL

Five potential NFL salary cap casualties this preseason

Winners and losers of the 2015 MLB trade deadline

Pirates do Pirates at deadline: Neat little moves

Mets acquire Cespedes from Tigers

Ranking the NFL’s 32 head coaches

Five worst baseball trades since 2000

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