New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski didn’t make the team flight to Chicago on Saturday. And last I checked, it’s tough to play a game in one city when you are in another one.
So while the Partiots held out a small, non-zero percent chance that Gronkowski would miraculously be healthy enough to get on a plane, arrive in Chicago, and play against the Bears, the team confirmed what many assumed on Saturday evening:
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) October 21, 2018
Gronkowski is a matchup nightmare, so the Bears catch a pretty big break not having to figure out how to defend someone with his size, skills, catch radius, and ability to rack up yards after the catch. The Patriots will certainly miss Gronkowski, whose skill set can’t be duplicated by backups Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister. But because those two players have just four catches and 31 receiving yards between them, expect New England to find answers elsewhere.
Not having Gronkowski opens up the possibility for others to have breakout performances, of which New England has ample choices. Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, and Chris Hogan figure to see the biggest increase in targets from Tom Brady. And with rookie Sony Michel going strong out of the backfield, fellow running back James White could be someone used more as a receiving option. The Patriots have waves of players who can do damage, so Gronkowski being out isn’t the death knell it would be for other teams with play-making tight ends.
Sure, Gronkowski being out is a big deal. I’ll give you that because that guy is a beast and a difference-maker. Most teams would have some major issues if their Pro Bowl tight end wasn’t able to suit up on game day, but the Patriots aren’t most teams.