Last night’s marquee match-up for NFL Sunday Night Football resulted in the Patriots’ first loss of the season — and an injury to star tight end Rob Gronkowski — as the Denver Broncos defeated New England 30-24 in overtime.
As you can see in the video below, the Patriots held a 21-17 lead with just under three minutes to play in regulation. It was second and ten, and Gronkowski was Tom Brady’s target. As Gronk reached for it in double coverage, he was cut low by Darian Stewart, as reported by ABC News. Gronkowski’s knee was injured, and the big man was writhing in pain. He had to be carted off the field, which is never a good sign.
For the Patriots fans, a lot changed from the time Brady took that snap until the end of the game. Arguably the greatest tight end of all time was sent back to the locker room. The four-point lead turned into a three-point deficit when the Broncos got the ball back and Brock Osweiler lead Denver to a five-play, 83-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown.
Then, with just over a minute left to play in the game, Brady marches the Patriots back down the field, allowing Stephen Gostkowski to hit a 47-yard field goal as the final seconds of regulation ticked away. New England was saved, temporarily, as they pressed the game to overtime. But the Pats didn’t look good in OT.
New England had the first possession in overtime. A sack and two incomplete passes later forced New England to punt. As the Broncos faced third down and a single yard from New England’s 48 yard line, C.J. Anderson took the ball to the end zone for a walk-off touchdown. The Broncos ended the Patriots’ undefeated streak, taking home a 30-24 victory.
While the first loss of the season is tough, losing an offensive weapon like Rob Gronkowski can be even more devastating. Drafted by New England in 2010, Gronk was already setting records by 2011. That year, he set the single-season record for receiving touchdowns by a tight end (17), set the single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end (1,327), and became the first player to lead the NFL in receiving touchdowns while playing tight end. He has been voted into the Pro Bowl every year of his career, except 2013, when he competed in just seven games due to injuries.
If he continued for the rest of this season at the pace he was on, Gronkowski would have ended the season with more than seventy receptions, over 1170 receiving yards, and eleven or twelve touchdowns. The main concern, obviously, is if he’ll be able to play again this year at all.
As Deadspin reported this morning, it appears that Gronk’s injury isn’t as bad as it may have looked at first. According to sources within the Patriots’ organization, Rob Gronkowski’s injury doesn’t look to be very serious. He was able to walk on his own after x-rays, and he gathered his things on his own as he made his way to the bus after the game. While no official prognosis has been given, the fact that the tight end is likely to return this season is all New England could hope for. This season, the offense had already suffered injuries to Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Brandon LaFell, and Dion Lewis.
Noteworthy from the Denver Broncos side of things is that backup quarterback Brock Osweiler had another great game in Peyton Manning’s absence. Many have speculated that, due to this success, Osweiler will start over Manning at quarterback for the Denver Broncos, even if Manning is healthy enough to return.
Brock Osweiler will lead the Denver Broncos against the Chargers in San Diego next week. No definite return date has been set for Rob Gronkowski at this point, but it doesn’t seem likely that they would risk putting him back in next week when the New England Patriots host the Philadelphia Eagles.
[Image via Twitter]