|Chase Blackburn comes down with an interception in front of Rob Gronkowski. (AP)|
INDIANAPOLIS -- Rob Gronkowski played as much and as well as most people could have guessed. He played but almost certainly was not 100 percent healthy. He didn't have much of a role in the passing offense. He was used mostly as a decoy and as a blocking tight end. And in the end, his impact on the Patriots' 21-17 loss to the Giants was minimal.
If we weren't wondering about how his ankle -- only two weeks after he suffered a high ankle sprain in the AFC title game -- we probably wouldn't have noticed Gronkowski at all. Basically, he was a shell of the man who accomplished so much this year and who put together arguably the best-ever season for an NFL tight end.
During the season, he caught 90 passes for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns. On Sunday in Super Bowl XLVI, Gronkowski was targeted only three times and caught two passes for 26 yards. He blocked on running plays, but mostly, he was invisible.
"I was good," Gronkowski said. "I was 100 percent out there doing everything they asked me to do."
Fair enough, but obviously the Patriots didn't ask him to do much. Which was probably appropriate, considering Gronkowski didn't practice the week after the AFC title game and didn't practice Wednesday or Friday before the Super Bowl. He was limited on Thursday, so the game plan for Gronkowski probably was small.
|Giants 21, Patriots 17|
"We were in a defense where I had to carry him vertical all the way down the field," Blackburn said. "[Brady] had a lot of time ... and he just threw it up for grabs. I finally found the ball. I just tried to box [Gronkowski] out and go up and get the ball.”
Maybe if Gronkowski's ankle were OK, he would have had a chance at catching the pass. Maybe he would have had a greater impact in the game, like fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez, who led the team with eight catches for 67 yards and a touchdown. But that's not who the Patriots had Sunday. His ankle allowed him to play, but it didn’t allow him to be the player you normally see.
"We don’t make excuses," running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis said. "We didn't win the game today, and that's it."
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