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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Blowing Out Indy Comes At A Huge Cost: Gronkowski Breaks Forearm, Expected Out 4-6 Weeks

A few measly hours, that's all the time Patriots fans got to bask in the glow of a resounding 59-24 blowout victory against the Colts this afternoon at Gillette Stadium. 59 points ties a Patriots team record set in 2009 vs. Tennessee (that crazy snow game).

Reality came calling way too soon as we all (7-3, 4-1 home) found out that Rob Gronkowski (7 catches, 137 yards, 2 TDs) broke his forearm and is expected to miss somewhere in the 4-6 weeks range. The worst part (well besides the injury) is that it happened in garbage time, on the final extra point with 3:55 left in the fourth quarter. Rightfully, that opens up Patriots head coach Bill Belichick to a deserved cacophony of criticism asking why the best tight end in the NFL was still out there. Ugh!

Before I go to sleep depressed, let's remember that this was a very nice win. Indianapolis (6-4, 2-3 away) might have beaten up on some bad teams and taken advantage of a weak schedule but they are a good squad. Also, let's hold off the NFL Hall of Fame induction for Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck (27 of 50, 334 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs). After getting touchdowns on their first two drives of the game, Indy was outscored 52-10 the rest of the way. He looked rattled and made a couple terrible decisions/throws. What's more, he easily could have had a few more interceptions.

The Patriots scored touchdowns thanks to all three phases: offense, defense and special teams. Cornerback Aqib Talib's (7 tackles, 5 solo) debut for New England included a 59-yard interception return for a touchdown. Rookie Alfonzo Dennard (4 tackles) topped that with an 87-yard interception return for a score. Julian Edelman had the best game of anyone (and his anonymous career) since he scored on a 68-yard punt return, caught a 2-yard touchdown and also had an end around for 47 yards. Incredible.

Tom Brady (24 of 35, 331 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs) has put himself right in the thick of the MVP discussion (assuming people talk about that in mid-November) with another excellent performance. Wes Welker added seven catches for 80 yards.

Four turnovers by Indianapolis were way too much to overcome, especially since New England took care of the ball and never coughed it up. Rookie wide receiver T.Y. Hilton had six catches for 100 yards and two TDs while Reggie Wayne notched seven catches for 72 yards. Patriots icon Adam Vinatieri (47-yard field goal, 3 PATs) was repeatedly booed by the brain dead crowd at Gillette, those people can't be serious. Who does that to him?

Rob Ninkovich had a very solid game with eight tackles (four assists), a sack, two tackles for losses and two quarterback hits along with a forced fumble that he recovered. Stevan Ridley (3-yard) and Shane Vereen (4-yard) had touchdown runs in the fourth quarter when it spun way out of control for the Colts.

He didn't play today but Aaron Hernandez is expected back on Thursday night (8:30 p.m., NBC) as the Patriots visit the Jets (4-6) at MetLife Stadium. New York won 27-13 this afternoon in St. Louis and you'll remember that they choked against New England on October 21 in a game the Pats ended up winning 29-26 in overtime.

Ironically, that gift has propelled to New England to their current four-game win streak. The Jets are not a good team and they won't go to the playoffs this season but they usually play the Patriots tough and anything can happen in a short week, especially against a divisional rival and without one of your best players.

UPDATE 11/19: Deion Branch cleared waivers so he's a free agent. The Patriots signed wide receiver Kamar Aiken to the practice squad, he's previously been on the Bills and Bears after entering the NFL as a rookie free agent in 2011.

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