“FOXBORO — The Gillette Stadium crowd went silent. And for a moment, the Patriots dismal performance against the lowly Cleveland Browns didn’t matter anymore.
At 8:27 of the third quarter, Rob Gronkowski laid on the turf in pain, trying to clutch his right leg. Matthew Slater knelt down on one knee close by as all the air was collectively sucked out of the stadium.
After hauling in a 21-yard pass from Tom Brady, Gronkowski was hit by a diving T.J. Ward. The Browns safety collided with Gronkowski’s right leg. When the team doctors and tight end Matthew Mulligan helped Gronkowski up, he couldn’t put any weight on the injured leg.
A source told the Herald after the game that the injury is a torn anterior cruciate ligament, an injury that will end the tight end’s season.”
As a fan of the game, I can sympathize with all my Patriots fans friends as you lose, what seems to me, your Kirk Gibson, your Derek Jeter, your Joe Namath, your Jim Kelly. The motivator, the soul of your team. I would be devastated if my Jets lost Nick Mangold and was devastated when my Mets lost Keith and Gary during the 1988 season.
So for you guys to lose Gronk now, after all he has been through, well, I feel your pain.
And to my fellow Jets fans, understand this: without Mangold and Brick, we would probably be 2 and 11 instead of 6 and 7.
The heart and souls of your team don’t get a lot of press, really. Honestly, before this season, could any Jet fan know anything about Gronkowski? No, we couldn’t. But, like we know who saves our QB each week from impending doom, Pats fans know who makes Brady Brady, season after season.
As any Patriots fan will tell you, this has been a tough season for their boys and for the fans, too. The record stands at 10-3, but based on recent play, it really is 7 wins, 3 losses and 3 second half miracles. And who has been there for all of it? That’s right! Gronk has! Even today. And, while he wasn’t on the field, he inspired them to yet another miracle.
So, even though the Pats will win their division (the Jets’ division, too) and probably will get a bye for the first playoff game, Brady and the Patriots can’t continue to not score in the first half and expect to continue to win. Sooner or later, and it almost happened on Sunday, the gambling genie won’t show up and pull them out of the fire. And to happen in January is not a good thing, when each game is sudden death. And Gronk won’t be there to inspire with his leadership.
So, Patriots fans, I salute your courage to back your boys through thick and thin. They will need your support more than ever.
And for Brady? I know you are getting up there in age, too. But, perhaps, YOU can find the fire deep within you and play like Gronk. You know, inspired.
And to my Pats fans. Enjoy the ride; I’m jealous because my team is done. And go as far as you can with the human team you have.
And maybe, we’ll see you in East Rutherford in February.