Week 11 Risers and Fallers: Pats Down Luck in Blowout Win, Lose Gronk in Process

After enduring most of the first half of the season without tight end Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots lost the other half of the Boston TE Party for the forseeable future in their 59-24 blowout win over Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. 

Rob Gronkowski torched the Colts for seven receptions for 137 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but broke his forearm on the team's final PAT play, leaving many fans and writers nationwide questioning Bill Belichick's decision to leave his most valuable weapon on the field in a game that was clearly in hand. 

The loss of Gronk for the next four-to-eight weeks could be brutal for the Pats, except they should be getting Hernandez back Thursday for the Thanksgiving showdown against the New York Jets. 

Although they injury put a damper on Gronk's terrific day, many other players enjoyed sensastional performances. 

Let's take a look at this week's risers and fallers. 

 

Risers 

1. Tom Brady, QB: In the battle of Luck vs. Brady, New England's three-time Super Bowl champion quarterback showed why he's still among the best in the game. Brady engineered an efficient, explosive passing attack that accounted for 331 yards through the air. Tom hooked up with Gronk twice and also found Julian Edelman for a trifecta of touchdowns in another vintage performance. 

2. Julian Edelman, WR/PR: Speaking of Edelman, the multi-dimensional threat seemed to contribute in every way except on defense. The speedy slot man/punt returner caught five passes for 58 yards and a score, gained 47 yards on one carry and took a punt back 68 yards to the house. 

3. Rob Ninkovich, DE: No defender is underappreciated around the league more than Ninkovich. The hybrid defensive end/linebacker may be a better version of Mike Vrabel, as he constantly makes plays in the backfield while setting the edge in the run game. Ninkovich recorded 8 tackles (2.0 for loss), a sack and recovered a fumble. Just another day at the office for the steady defender. 

4. Devin McCourty, S: While most fans will point to Aqib Talib's interception return for a touchdown, McCourty actually had a better overall game than the Patriots' newest acquisition. Although he never returned to his rookie year form at corner, McCourty may actually be a better fit at free safety where he can harness his athleticism, instincts and strong tackling ability. 

5. Sebastian Vollmer & Nate Solder, OTs: One overlooked aspect of the season has been the tremendous play of the Patriots' two offensive tackles. Sebastian Vollmer has returned to All-Pro form this year after an injury-riddled 2011 campaign, and Solder has done a fantastic job making everyone forget about his atrocious preseason. The two pillars held the Colts to zero sacks and just two quarterback hits while paving the way for a rushing attack that averaged 4.6 yards per carry and two scores. 

 

Fallers 

1. Steve Gregory, S: Maybe it's just me, but I don't see anything special, or even starting worthy when it comes to Gregory. He continues to take poor angles to the ball and isn't a sure tackler. Although Tavon Wilson can be mistake-prone, he makes more big plays and did so with another interception Sunday. 

2. Chances at No. 1 seed: If the Pats had any hope of clawing out a No. 1 seed, it took a big hit when Rob Gronkowski's forearm snapped. Though he wasn't putting up record numbers like last year, the third-year pro was still the league's best all-around tight end and would have continued producing at a high rate with Aaron Hernandez returning to the lineup this week. With Gronkowski sidelined for what could be the rest of the regular season, it'll be interesting to see how New England attempts to replace him. 

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