BOSTON (CBS) – The New England Patriots pulled off another dramatic comeback on Sunday to beat the Cleveland Browns 27-26 in the final minute, but the victory came at a hefty cost.
Rob Gronkowski took a low hit to the knee in the third quarter and had to be carted off the field. The All Pro tight end is likely done for the season, leaving the Tom Brady and the Patriots with a huge void over the middle of the field.
WFAN host and The NFL Today’s Boomer Esiason joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich for his weekly call on Monday, and said nothing will come easy for the Patriots the rest of the way without Gronk.
“They might win a home game but the loss of Gronkowski is huge, and there is no downplaying that. He is such a dynamic player,” said Boomer. “I don’t ever want to take or discount Tom Brady, and Shane Vereen is becoming the go-to guy for New England, but Gronk is the matchup nightmare and all of a sudden they don’t have that in the middle of that offense. It’s going to be tough to go on the road and match up against a Denver team that looks like their offense is not going to slow down for anybody right now.”
Boomer said we can expect more hits like the one T.J. Ward delivered on Gronkowski with many defensive backs fearing they’ll be penalized of fined for going up too high.
“What you saw yesterday was the by-product of the new rules. Everyone is so worried about hitting up by the shoulders and the head, they don’t want get fined or flagged, so now these defensive backs are diving at receivers’ knees and ankles. These guys are going to end up getting hurt like this,” he said.
“It all really starter with Brandon Meriweather, when he started talking about stuff like this and now it’s showing up each and every week. I’ve said many times over the last couple of years, and Shannon Sharpe has said on The NFL Today ‘hit me by my shoulders not my knees; that’s where I make my money.’ Rob Gronkowski is finding out the hard way that defensive backs are going to be doing this now because they don’t want to be fined or hit with penalties. I don’t know what the competition committee is going to do, but it’s a huge question mark going forward.”
Boomer said defensive backs always used to go high in hopes of knocking the ball out, but now that is all changing and the competition committee will have to do something about it in the off-season.
“Defensive backs try to dislodge the ball from the receiver, they always go high and want to level up the hit that way. That’s why it was dangerous to go across the middle with your arms extended and ribs exposed. A lot of defensive backs have started to think they don’t want to get fined or a penalty, so they want to go low and take their knees out. To me, that’s where they’re most defenseless,” said Boomer. “The competition committee is going to have to come up with something because ACLs, MLCs, busted kneecaps all of a sudden become the target area for these defensive backs.”
Boomer also looks ahead to the Patriots’ next two games, road matchups against Miami and Baltimore, and how much New England will miss Gronkowski in the immediate future: