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Sunday, December 15, 2013
Filling in for Gronk: How the Pats did it

By Field Yates

MIAMI -- A primary question heading into Week 15 was how the New England Patriots would account for the loss of tight end Rob Gronkowski. The team’s top pass-catching weapon, Gronkowski was placed on injured reserve on Monday after suffering a torn ACL and MCL against the Browns last Sunday.

Below is an overview of some of the key players that were counted on to fill Gronkowski’s production during the team’s 24-20 Week 15 loss to the Dolphins.

Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui: Coming back for the first time since a Week 11 knee injury, Hoomanwanui was the team’s top tight end, playing 72 of 81 offensive snaps. He had just one catch, but it was a critical one, as he snagged a beautiful one-handed catch for a touchdown to give the Patriots a 10-0 second-quarter lead.

Tight end Matthew Mulligan: The only other tight end that was active Sunday, Mulligan contributed 16 snaps on offense. He did not record a catch, but did appear to hold his own as an edge-setting run-blocker. (Note: D.J. Williams was inactive for Sunday’s game.)

Wide receiver Josh Boyce: Gronkowski wasn’t the only critical skill player who was out, as rookie wide receivers Aaron Dobson (foot) and Kenbrell Thompkins (hip) also missed the game. Boyce was thrust into a larger offensive role, catching four passes for 42 yards. He also had critical drops during the game. He was spotted after the game walking gingerly with no shoe on his right foot.

Wide receiver Austin Collie: Collie effectively became the third wide receiver late in the game, and he once again proved to be a dependable fill-in. He had two catches for 25 yards.

Running back Shane Vereen: Vereen has been a valuable player for the Patriots' offense since returning from his own injury, but he had his quietest game of the season. Vereen racked up just 21 yards on five total touches.