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How Much Does Rob Gronkowski's Absence Affect Patriots? Not Much, Says Ravens


The Ravens don't have to worry about a Gronk spike Monday night at Gillette Stadium.

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will miss the much-anticipated game after undergoing back surgery, leaving New England quarterback Tom Brady without one of his most dangerous targets.

So how much does Gronkowski's absence affect the game?

"It doesn't change anything they do," safety Lardarius Webb said. "As long as they have No. 12, they can keep doing the same things. He is their offense. They have good players surrounding him, but he makes them go."

The Patriots have shown they can overcome big injuries in the past. They have even gotten the job done without Brady.

When he was suspended for the first four weeks of the season, the Patriots still went 3-1 with backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and third-string rookie Jacoby Brissett. They averaged 27 points per game before being shut out by the Buffalo Bills in Week 4.

Once Brady came back, the Patriots averaged 34 points over their next four games.

"You see what they did without Brady. They can win games," cornerback Jimmy Smith said. "They're an excellent team, very good coaches, they execute very well. So we're going to need to be on our P's and Q's."

The Patriots didn't have Gronkowski in their win over the Los Angeles Rams last week. They still put up 26 points against a strong defense.

New England got 88 yards from running back LaGarrette Blount, who has the fifth-most rushing yards in the league this season (957), 101 yards from wide receiver Julian Edelman and 82 yards from rookie wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell.

"There's nobody that does a better job with personnel than the Patriots," Ravens Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees said. "I'm sure they wish they had him, but I'm just telling you that over the years and being around them, there's nobody that does a better job of setting up a game plan based on the personnel that they have. They'll be ready."

Blount and Edelman, who ranks eighth in the NFL with 72 catches and has 718 receiving yards, are New England's two chief weapons at this point. But they also have dangerous targets in receiver Chris Hogan, and running back Dion Lewis.

Then there's tight end Martellus Bennett, who New England signed this offseason. He's an aggressive 6-foot-6, 270-pound former Pro Bowler (2014) who has 44 catches for 544 yards and four touchdowns this year. He's nursing ankle and shoulder injuries, but he'll likely suit up.

"It's not like there's a drop off to a nobody. This guy's a Pro Bowl tight end," Pees said. "He did a great job against us when he was at Chicago. He hurt us.

"Personnel things, I almost don't even look at it because, I'm just telling you, I know them and how they think and how they game plan. They're able to utilize their talent better than anybody there is."

Gronkowski actually hadn't hurt the Ravens too badly in their previous meetings. Over four games, he had 15 catches for 240 yards (60 per game) and one touchdown.

But he could have been a tougher matchup this year considering his size. The Ravens have gone smaller and faster at safety with Eric Weddle and Webb instead of Will Hill and Kendrick Lewis/Bernard Pollard/Darian Stewart. "Obviously, he's a really, really good player, so for them not to have him is big on both of our sides," Smith said. "But they're going to find a way to make up for his production. We'll be ready for it."

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