FOXBORO — On the day that reports emerged that the Patriots may be without Rob Gronkowski for four to six weeks due to a broken forearm , the tight end delivered the sort of performance to underscore what a huge loss he will be.
Gronkowski is no secret to teams playing the Patriots. Neither is the success that he and veteran quarterback Tom Brady  share. But when it comes to putting game plans into motion against the dynamic record-setting duo, it’s a little bit easier said than done.
On Sunday, Gronkowski set all kinds of personal marks with his seven-catch, 137-yard, two-touchdown performance. He became the first tight end in history to record three-straight 10-plus touchdown seasons — and all in his first three years in the league. He also now enjoys the title of ‘player with the most multi-touchdown receiving games (12) in his first three years of service,’ having surpassed Jerry Rice  in that category.
The 6-foot-6, 265-pound tight end has 37 touchdown catches in two-plus years in the NFL. And with six games remaining on the regular season schedule, he sits six touchdown receptions behind Randy Moss ‘ all-time record of 43 through the first three years of being in the league.
After the game at Gillette Stadium  on Sunday, several members of the Colts spoke of how difficult it is to cover such a physical player with very capable hands.
‘He is such a big body and fluid receiver,’ safety Tom Zbikowski said. ‘It is not like he is going to burn you with his speed, but he finds a way to get open every time. And they also have a pretty good quarterback that can put it where he needs it.’
The Patriots racked up 446 total yards offensively against the Colts, whose defense entered Sunday’s contest ranked 26th in the league in opponent points per game, 20th in yards per game surrendered and 20th in passing yards per game given up.
On the season, the Colts defense — which was missing starting corner back Vontae Davis  this week — has allowed 18 passing touchdowns to opponents, and one touchdown by means of a return.
Linebacker Pat Angerer said that Gronkowski is a very good football player, but there were still plenty of things that his defense could have done to prevent such scoring assaults.
‘[Gronkowski] is a good and a great player. They are all good players,’ Angerer said. ‘We didn’t play our best game obviously. There is nothing that we messed up out there that we can’t fix. They played well and we still haven’t played our best football. The first half we still weren’t playing as good as we can. We can get a lot better, and I think we have got the guys in this room to do it.’
Colts interim head coach Bruce Arians said after the game that Gronkowski is a tough matchup for every team the Patriots play, not just for his team. But overall, the duo of Brady and Gronkowski can be lethal to the best defense in the league.
‘He’s a tough matchup for everybody, not just us,’ Arians said. ‘You’ve got your work cut out for you if it’s your job covering him. And Tom [Brady] knows where to put the ball on him when you’ve got good coverage. I mean, Antoine Bethea had great coverage on him on time and it was a perfect throw and a good catch. There’s nothing else you can do. Just line up and play the next down.’
The Colts’ plaudits — as well as Gronkowski’s continuing march to history — simply underscored the notion that the Patriots may be without a unique difference-maker for some time.