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The Patriots Won the Game, but Lost Rob Gronkowski to a Concussion

New England’s star tight end suffered a hit to the head just before halftime and did not return

AFC Championship - Jacksonville Jaguars v New England Patriots Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski suffered a hit to the head at the end of the first half of Sunday’s AFC championship game and was ruled out of the second half with a concussion.

With just over 90 seconds left in the first half, Jaguars safety Barry Church collided helmet-to-helmet with Gronkowski on a deep pass down the middle of the field. Gronkowski went into the locker room for the remainder of the half and did not emerge with the rest of the team for the beginning of the second half. During halftime, CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson reported that Gronkowski looked wobbly walking around after the play and said, “Wow, wow” as he came off the field. He was officially ruled out with a concussion diagnosis midway through the second half. Gronkowski has suffered a litany of injuries in his career, including one other concussion in 2013.

The Pats beat the Jaguars 24-20 as quarterback Tom Brady led a game-winning drive without his star tight end. Gronkowski finished with one catch for 21 yards on three targets in the first half. Those 21 yards made him the all-time leader in postseason receiving yards among tight ends. He also entered Sunday with a streak of six consecutive playoff games with one or more receiving touchdowns.

The Patriots won the Super Bowl last season without Gronkowski, but his absence changes New England’s dynamics on offense. Gronk is a major mismatch with defenders, and he adds a dimension to the Pats’ offense that New England has struggled to recoup without him. He’ll have two weeks between Sunday’s game and the Super Bowl to recover, and his availability will impact what the Patriots will be able to do on offense as they go for their sixth Super Bowl victory in 17 years.