Rob Gronkowski will undergo surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back Friday and is expected to miss two months. So, in other words, potentially the rest of the season.
The Patriots (9-2) still have a cushion in the AFC East, but make no mistake: this is season-altering news for New England.
“I think it definitely takes (Tom Brady’s) security blanket away from him,” Bills linebacker Preston Brown said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “But with (Martellus) Bennett, the way he’s been playing, they find a way to win. I’ll never say ‘Oh, without (Gronkowski) they’re going to be a different team.’ They still got a good tight end in Bennett, and they still got those receivers that find a way to get open each and every week.”
Gronkowski has 68 touchdowns in 88 regular-season games in his career. Not having to worry about him will drastically change how defenses game plan for Brady.
“It’s definitely a lot easier,” Brown said. “They’ll come out in that two-tight end set and they’ll go empty on you. It’s a lot different than it’s Bennett and Gronk. Now it’s Bennett and whoever else they got, so it’s definitely going to the a big difference. Now you just put all the coverage on Bennett and make the other guys make plays.”
One thing that is certain? Brown will see no shortage of elite weapons this Sunday in Oakland (9-2). Derek Carr has thrown 22 touchdowns to just five interceptions, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree have combined for 126 catches, 1,633 yards and nine touchdowns, and Latavius Murray and Jalen Richardson have been beasts out of the backfield.
“We see a lot of weapons,” Brown said. “They come out in a lot of different formations. They’ll come out in five wide, and then the next play they’ll bring in two extra tackles and put one in motion and do a lot of straight power plays. So they do a lot of different things. The quarterback is playing well, and he has the good receivers out wide. You got three good running backs – they run 4.3s out of college – so they got a lot of speed and a lot of different ways that they use those guys, so it’s going to be a big challenge for us defensively.”
Oakland has won five straight. The Bills (6-5) are currently on the outside of the playoff picture, but a win over the Raiders would certainly bolster their chances. Kickoff is at 4:05 p.m. ET.
Brown, who played college ball at Louisville, was also asked about Charlie Strong’s dismissal from Texas.
“I was sad,” said Brown, who was recruited by Strong. “I know what a great guy Charlie is and how he was a father figure to me and all the those other guys on that team. It’s just how he helped us become better man. We know what he did for that program and helped those guys get better. They’ll get better each and every year without him being there, but we know how good of a guy Charlie is.”