When the early hours of Monday began in the Rocky Mountains of Denver it appeared New England's first loss of the season – a 30-24 overtime defeat to the Broncos – also saw the team lose its All-Pro tight end to a significant knee injury as Rob Gronkowksi was carted off the field in the fourth quarter.
While there is no wiping out the Brock Osweiler-led win over Tom Brady to drop the defending champs to 10-1 on the season, early reports indicate that the injury to Gronkowski is not as severe as it first appeared.
NFL Network reported late Monday morning that:
That came after ESPN had reported a similarly upbeat diagnoses for the key Patriots cog:
The Boston Globe *says that the Patriots are hurting after their first loss, and the road to the Super Bowl just got harder. The *Globe's game story says the first loss came just like that, on C.J. Anderson's 48-yard game-winning touchdown run early in overtime. Chris Harper's fourth-quarter muffed punt was an obvious and unfortunate momentum swing for New England in the eventual loss.
Gronkowksi wasn't the only key player injured in Denver, the Globe says linebacker Dont'a Hightower was sidelined for the entire second half due to a sprained MCL. The Globe Patriots notebook looks at Jonathan Kraft's pregame comments regarding Jamie Collins, as well as New England's game in Houston being flexed into prime time.
The *Globe *takes a statistical look at how big of a difference Gronkowski makes, as well as stating the injury could have been a knockout blow to the Patriots.
The Boston Herald passes along a less-than-diplomatic Brady talking about the officials in his weekly call-in to WEEI radio: "We didn't get any calls last night."
The entire WEEI interview with Brady can be heard right here.
The Herald's initial reaction to the Gronkowski injury was that the team might be out of next-man-ups. The defense clearly came up short of its goals in Denver in the losing effort, while the loss could mean a return trip to the Rocky Mountains in the postseason. The Herald also offers up its weekly bests and worsts from the loss.
The Providence Journal describes the Patriots as battered but not broken leaving Denver. The ProJo also notes Brady talking about Scott Chandler's need to produce moving forward.
ESPN has Brady saying he was "pissed off" after the loss. ESPNBoston.com also looks at how the injuries have really piled up for the Patriots this season.
WEEI.com notes that Bill Belichick had no desire to talk about the suspect officiating in the immediate aftermath of his team's first loss of the season. WEEI also breaks down the Patriots circling the wagons after the defeat, including Chandler Jones strangely refusing to answer questions about anything other than the upcoming game against the Eagles. Broncos cornerback and former Patriot Aqib Talib felt good beating his former team, led by Belichick and Brady.
Brady's Facebook page had some fun with Denver leading up to the game, and CSNNE.com notes that the bucking Broncos turned the tables after the game. Tom E. Curran wonders if the Gronkowski injury was the straw the broke the Patriots back. CSNNE.com also notes Osweiler's solid effort in the win, meaning Peyton Manning's time in Denver could very well be done.
NFL.com has Brady making it very clear that he doesn't believe the hit on Gronkowksi that led to the injury was a dirty one. The site says the Broncos made a statement with the win over the injury-ravaged Patriots. Even after the loss, NFL.com still has New England as the team most likely to win Super Bowl 50.
USA Today says that the Gronkowski injury shows that the "Patriots season can be spiked."
MassLive.com breaks down how the Hightower injury changed the complexion of the game in Denver.