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Gronkowski suffers head injury in Pats' AFC title win

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  • By Around The NFL staff NFL.com
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The Patriots lost one of their brightest stars at the worst possible time, but survived. The same can't be guaranteed two weeks from now.

All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski did not return to Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Jaguars after suffering a head injury. New England forged onward without him, riding two Danny Amendola touchdown catches to a 24-20 comeback victory and yet another AFC crown.

Gronkowski departed for the locker room after suffering a head-to-head collision just before the half. Jaguars safety Barry Church was flagged for unnecessary roughness on the play after slamming into Gronkowski to break up a throw from Tom Brady.

Gronkowski's absence was a major loss for a Patriots team angling to pile up yardage over the middle of the field. The massive-bodied playmaker departed with only one catch for 21 yards off three targets, attracting plenty of attention from a variety of Jacksonville defenders before suffering the injury.

The Patriots still boast a flock of weapons in the backfield and through the air, but this setback vastly changed how they could attack Jacksonville's stout defense. New England adjusted, opening up the offense with more defense-softening screens and a variety of medium-to-deep targets to Amendola and Brandin Cooks, though it required a fourth-quarter surge to complete the victory.

New England isn't without talented playmakers, but Gronkowski's status is absolutely worth monitoring moving forward. The tight end adds another dimension that causes every opponent issues. His health and availability will undoubtedly be one of the most prominent stories of the two-week build-up to the sport's biggest game.

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