The Patriots will be without one of the primary offensive weapons on Sunday, as tight end Rob Gronkowski wasn’t on the plane that took the Pats from New England to the Bay Area, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Mike Reiss of ESPN.com (Twitter link) had reported earlier in the day that Gronkowski didn’t participate in Friday’s practice and was unlikely to suit up against the 49ers.
Reports have differed as to what exactly will keep Gronkowski out of Sunday’s matchup — while initial reports indicated that Gronkowski suffered a punctured lung, subsequent information has revealed that the All Pro tight end may only be dealing with a chest injury. Either way, the ailment is serious enough to prevent Gronkowski from making the cross country trip, but New England will still be a heavy favorite against a San Francisco team that has only managed a single victory.
With Gronkowski out, the Patriots could instead feature their run game on Sunday, especially given that they’re facing a Niners club that ranks 31st in run defense DVOA. Veteran tight end Martellus Bennett will be the direct replacement for Gronkowski, and figures to see a few more targets than he normally would. On the season, Bennett has hauled 38 passes for 504 yards and four touchdowns.
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