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Boomer Esiason on D&C: Patriots lose a ‘major, major player’ with Rob Gronkowski injury

11.19.12 at 10:13 am ET

CBS Sports NFL analyst Boomer Esiason made his weekly appearance with Dennis & Callahan and talked about Rob Gronkowski‘€™s injury, the Patriots’ 59-24 win over the Colts, and more news from around the NFL. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

After the Pats’ commanding win Sunday, all focus shifted to Gronkowski, who reportedly broke his left forearm on an extra-point attempt while the Patriots were ahead by 35 points. Esiason said the loss would be big for the Patriots over the next few weeks.

‘€œGronkowski is a beast in the middle,’€ Esiason said. ‘€œHe is impossible to cover. When he’€™s playing at the level that he played at yesterday, he’€™s a major difference-maker every time the Patriots play. With him out for the next maybe three to four to five weeks, maybe Aaron Hernandez comes back, maybe he’€™s ready to go. I don’€™t know. That is a major, major player that now is missing out of this Patriot offense. I know everybody else did their part yesterday, but certainly he is one of the guys that spearheads the success of that team. ‘€¦ We have never seen a guy who is that big, that talented, that athletic and to be able to make a play like that, to hold on to the ball while he’€™s getting hit in the back is pretty damn impressive.’€

Added Esiason: ‘€œI would think that once Tom [Brady] found out, he probably was like, ‘€˜I can’€™t believe this, I have to go down the next three or four weeks without legitimately my best player.’€™ ‘€

Keeping with the Patriot way, Bill Belichick did not pull his starters, including Gronkowski, out of the game even though New England far ahead and has a short week before the Thanksgiving game with the Jets on Thursday.

‘€œI think it’€™s a part of the game,’€ Esiason said. ‘€œBelichick has always played it that way. Whether their team is 15-0 and there is a 16th game to be played, and they’€™ve already locked up home-field advantage, he’€™s playing his guys. He makes no excuses for that, he makes no apologies for that. It’€™s just the way it goes.’€

The Patriots will have to plug the big void Gronkowski leaves as he recovers from the injury, and Esiason said he wasn’€™t sure exactly how they would go about this.

‘€œA lot of this depends on where Aaron Hernandez is. I know he practiced on Friday,’€ Esiason said. ‘€œI thought when they first brought Aaron back, that was way too early. When you come back with the ankle injury he had suffered, you’€™re asking a lot for a guy to come back that quickly. ‘€¦ A lot of that will be determined by whether or not he is healthy. The other thing, too, remember, it’€™s a short week. So, I just don’€™t know if he is ready to go or not. ‘€¦ They’€™ll figure something out. If there’€™s a team that can do something on a short week and still be very good offensively, even without one of their best players, it’€™s going to be the New England Patriots.’€

Overall, Esiason was impressed by the Patriots’ strong performance against the Colts on Sunday.

‘€œYeah, it was pretty impressive, no question,’€ Esiason said. ‘€œJulian Edelman was great. Certainly Tom Brady was more than efficient; he was actually surgical if you ask me. And then a couple of those interceptions that Andrew Luck threw were because of pressure that he was receiving. Anybody who watched the game can certainly see that Andrew Luck has all the skills to be one of the great ones, his time will definitely come. ‘€¦ I give Aqib Talib a lot of credit. He was in the right spot at the right time. A little bit of pressure forced the interception. To me, that was the point that really changed the whole dynamic of the game.’€

The Jets pulled off their first win in 35 days when they beat the Rams 27-13. Esiason said the Jets looked good Sunday, but he noted they were playing the not-so-good Rams.

‘€œThis morning I think a lot of people are breathing a sigh of relief over there at Florham Park, where the Jets practice, this morning, realizing that they actually can play in this league,’€ Esiason said. ‘€œTheir defense played fabulously yesterday, but that’€™s against Sam Bradford and just a woeful group of wide receivers and skill players, kind of like what Mark Sanchez is playing with. This week it’s going to be completely different.’€

Esiason broke down the Jets’ offensive performance and said Sanchez had one of his best games of the season.

‘€œHe looked better, he was 15-of-20, still didn’€™t crack the 200-yard barrier,’€ Esiason said. ‘€œThey ran the ball 41 times yesterday. And Bilal Powell, his backup running, really looked great. He had a couple of really strong runs yesterday. There were a couple of dropped passes yesterday, again, as there always are for the New York Jets, but for the most part that was one of Mark Sanchez’€™s best games this year. He looked real confident. He looked decisive. Threw the ball extremely accurately. But saying all of that stuff, this is still a team that doesn’€™t have a lot of confidence offensively.’€

As the Jets prepare to take on the Patriots, Esiason said he has no concern that the Patriots will have a hard time moving the ball.

‘€œI would say this is a defense that can be had,’€ Esiason said. ‘€œWith all of the weapons the New England Patriots have, they should be able to move the ball up and down the field on the Jets. I’€™m not too worried about it from a New England perspective.’€

Following are more highlights from the interview.

On the Texans nearly dropping a game to the Jaguars: ‘€œActually, I feel better about them this week that Matt Schaub was able to do that. I didn’€™t see that coming from him. They had a little bit of a down game in the division against a team that knows them very well. It was definitely a flat game for them, the way they played in the first half. Part of me says that was good for them. They needed that kind of offensive output. They’€™ve been living with the defense each and every week.’€

On the Packers and the NFC North: ‘€œMaybe the most impressive win yesterday, for me, anyway, from a team I thought was going to lose, was Green Bay. With all those injuries that they had, they go to 7-3 now and they’€™re right on the heels of the Chicago Bears. If Chicago loses tonight to San Francisco, Green Bay will be in first place in the NFC North by virtue of beating Chicago earlier in the [season].”

On what the Colts would need to do if they were to play the Patriots again: ‘€œAndrew Luck looking at the film and learning something from his mistakes. That’€™s the only thing that you would have to hope if you were a Colts fan or a Colts player. That he would be better in his decision-making and take care of the ball better. They still had 448 total yards of offense. It wasn’€™t like they were totally inept.  You could see that he can play. ‘€¦ More concerning for me if I were a Colts fan would be my defense and any way I could stop the Patriot offense.’€

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Andrew Luck, Bill Belichick, boomer esiason



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