The play helped set up a touchdown later in the drive, but New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski took a wicked helmet-to-helmet hit.
The New England Patriots offense has been mostly silent during the first half of the AFC Championship, scoring a field goal on their first drive and a touchdown on their last. Tight end Rob Gronkowski has been a non-factor, with one catch for 21 yards on three targets, but the hit he took as he tried to gather a reception in the second quarter looks like it will be an important point in the game.
There wasn’t much Jaguars’ safety Barry Church could have done to avoid hitting Gronkowski as he did, and seems to have done his best to lead with his shoulder before making some helmet-to-helmet contact. By the letter of NFL law, where nuance and the speed of the game is not recognized, a penalty was warranted.
Gronkowski was clearly wobbly as he got up and left the field, as the second half gets going he’s still in the locker room and presumably being evaluated for a concussion.
Gronkowski presents the biggest matchup problem on the entire Patriots’ offense, and almost in arguably in the entire NFL. There’s obviously no replacing him directly, but Dwayne Allen and his 10 regular season catches will take over the primary portion of the tight end snaps for New England.
As expected, the Patriots have announced Gronkowski is questionable to return to Sunday’s game.
It’s worth noting the Patriots made their run to a Super Bowl win last postseason when Gronkowski was injured, so they have proven they can function this time of the year without him. But the Jacksonville defense has come to play with a berth in Super Bowl LII on the line, and now (barring something unforeseen) they don’t have to worry about taking away “Gronk” in the second half.