Originally written on Larry Brown Sports  |  Last updated 10/30/14

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 02: Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots carries a reception into the endzone past Antrel Rolle of the New York Giants for a first quarter touchdown on September 2, 2010 at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
The New England Patriots may have put a whooping on the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, but they lost their second-most important offensive player in the process. Aside from Tom Brady, no player is more crucial to New England’s success on offense than Rob Gronkowski. Now that Gronk is expected to miss at least four weeks with a broken forearm, the Patriots will need to make some major adjustments. The stats speak for themselves. Gronkowski has hauled in 53 passes for 748 yards and a league-leading 10 touchdowns. But that doesn’t tell the entire story. Gronkowski is Brady’s favorite safety valve. Third down used to belong to Wes Welker, but now Brady seems to always look for his big tight end when the Patriots need to move the chains. Then, there’s the revitalized running game. Because of his importance in the passing game, Gronkowski is a tremendously underrated run blocker. The Patriots rank fifth in the NFL with 142.9 rushing yards per game. Much of that success is owed to the emergence of Stevan Ridley, but Gronk has been just as important in the run game as any other player along the Patriots offensive line. Aaron Hernandez is scheduled to return from an ankle injury against the Jets on Thursday night, which should help soften the blow a bit. However, he is not nearly as effective a blocker as Gronkowski and is far more one-dimensional. Backup tight ends Michael Hoomanawanui, Visanthe Shiancoe and Daniel Fells may be able to help as blockers, but can any of them become an effective option for Brady in the passing game? If you recall, Gronkowski was significantly banged up when the Patriots played the New York Giants in the Super Bowl nine months ago. Playing with a less-than-full strength Gronk didn’t go so well. Playing with an absent Gronk could be even worse. Photo credit: David Butler II-US PRESSWIRE
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Cubs oust manager Rick Renteria, setting stage for Joe Maddon

Officially official: Michigan's Dave Brandon has resigned

RG3 won't 'try to be a normal quarterback' on Sunday

Dez Bryant, Joseph Randle reportedly argue before practice

DeAngelo Hall re-tore Achilles tendon while making pizza

Madison Bumgarner was once roommates with Russell Wilson

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Dave Brandon to resign as Michigan's Athletic Director

Wild's Vanek linked to alleged money laundering scheme

Jets fans start 'Fire John Idzik' website

Report: McDonald unlikely to be charged with domestic violence

Texas A&M Aggies bench Kenny Hill for freshman Kyle Allen

Josh Smith's reaction to Faried's criticism: 'He's a clown'

WATCH: Johnny Manziel cusses out referees at Cavs opener

Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons are 'Run DMC'

Analysis: Alex Gordon wouldn't have scored on Game 7 error

Game of the week: Broncos vs. Patriots

November games that will shape the College Football Playoff

WATCH: Flyers equip. manager pulls prank with fake snake

Simi Valley team recreates Sandlot photo for Halloween

Ranking the Top 10 quarterbacks in the NFL

WATCH: Vanilla Ice rocked the halftime show at T'Wolves game

WATCH: Russell Westbrook gets into it with heckling fan

PHOTO: The best sports-themed Halloween costume this year

WATCH: Jameis Winston forces fumble after throwing INT

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!

Game of the week: Broncos vs. Patriots

Baseball team recreates Sandlot pic

Top 10 QBs in the NFL

McDonald unlikely to face D.V. charge

Welker feels like 'weak link' in offense

Cavs intro for LeBron was wild

Greg Hardy won't play this season

Michael Jordan rips Obama's golf game

Torii Hunter in radio ad opposing gay marriage

Curt Schilling praises Bumgarner

GALLERY: Best of sports pumpkins

Top storyline for each Week 9 game

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.