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Sports

January 14, 2013

Leaping to AFC Championship

FOXBOROUGH — We can say with certitude that Tom Brady, who might be the best signal caller ever to play his position, is irreplaceable on the New England Patriots.

Just hear what coach Bill Belichick said about his importance after the game

“He’s our leader,” said Belichick. “And we all follow him, we all respect him and he led the team today.”

Those are powerful words from a powerful man in the football world.

Well, we will find out next week or next month about Rob Gronkowski’s role in this offensive juggernaut. The affable Gronkowski was not laughing in the first quarter when the team doctor led him down the stairs behind the bench and into oblivion.

We soon found out that Gronkowski re-broke the forearm he originally broke while blocking on the extra point team at the end of a 59-24 blowout of the Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 18.

While Gronkowski is not on the Brady level of importance, he might be a close second.

All you have to do is look at his contract. For Belichick to offer somebody not named Brady, a 23-year-old at that, a six-year, $58 million deal says it all.

Gronkowski is a freak. He’s 6 foot 7. He’s very strong. He’s deceptively fast. And his hands might be his best trait. He is a matchup nightmare, which is very, very important in the Brady-run offense. At least 33 percent of the time, Brady will change a play, particularly when he has four or five receivers spread out, if he sees a matchup he wants to “expose.”

Gronkowski is too quick for the linebackers and too big and too strong for the defensive backs.

The Patriots won four of five games without Gronkowski, five of six if you include last night’s 41-28 win in which he was a non-factor before leaving midway through the first quarter.

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