It says a lot about Rob Gronkowski's season that he made the Pro Bowl despite not playing since week 11. The New England Patriots tight end set NFL history last season with a staggering stat line, and looking at the 1st 10 games of the year, he was set to do the same.
According to ESPN, Gronk would still have been a man among boys in the tight end standings, even if he wasn't able to hit the heights of last season. If he continued in the same way, he would have been 4th in catches with 80, first in yards with 1,149. And finally, he would have led not just tight ends, but the whole of the NFL with 16 touchdowns.
So, in effect, the Pats offense lost out on 300 yards and 5 touchdowns. Which is probably why the Patriots offense wasn't as deadly as it seemed to be when we destroyed the likes of the Indianapolis Colts and the St. Louis Rams. Adding to that, Gronk has such a great relationship on the field with Tom Brady. And as good as Aaron Hernandez is, the offense just wasn't as fluid and effective as it used to be. And of course, no Gronk means that Hernandez and Wes Welker can take more attention from opposition defenses.
You also feel that we desperately needed Gronkowski for the loss against the San Francisco 49ers. Not just to make some plays in the first half when the offense just stalled. The main reason it stalled was due to the fact Brady couldn't get settled, and the running game wasn't there, due to the Niners destructive front 7. Gronkowski's excellent blocking would surely have helped Brady get some time in the pocket to find his targets, and get into the rhythm that almost got us the win. Beating the Niners would have meant a number 1 seed instead of the 2, and also meant we wouldn't have had to rely on the Colts.
Gronkowski's a big dude, and he left a big hole in the Pats offense, not just numbers wise. Having him back in full flow in the play-offs will be crucial to the Pats heading back to the Super Bowl.