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Patriots minus Gronkowski

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Patriots have done just fine without Rob Gronkowski.

So far.

They'll see Sunday whether that continues or if their valuable tight end's absence will keep them from a second straight Super Bowl appearance.

Gronkowski had surgery Monday on his broken left arm, the Associated Press reported. Gronkowski suffered the season-ending injury Sunday when he caught a pass from Tom Brady in the first quarter and landed out of bounds on the arm for an incompletion in New England's 41-28 division round win over Houston.

"Certainly, Rob is a unique player, and he has some skills that allow you to do special things with him," offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said Monday.

"I don't think it's really fair to say you just plug somebody in and off you go."

Michael Hoomanawanui filled in well enough after Gronkowski broke his left arm on the Patriots' seventh offensive play against the Texans. He'll probably do it again in the conference title game against the Ravens.

"Michael did a great job with the things we asked him to do," McDaniels said. "He certainly did a good job in protection and in the running game."

RAVENS RELISH ROLE: The Ravens have another opportunity to embrace the underdog role, this time in the conference championship game.

Playing at home — where they're 7-2 — the Patriots are 9½-point favorites to top Baltimore.

The Ravens already defeated New England this season and are coming off a stunning upset on the road against top-seeded Denver. Yet they opened as underdogs by the exact same spread that the Broncos were favored by on Saturday.

"It's just what everyone else thinks," Ravens DT Haloti Ngata said. "In here, on our team, we believe in ourselves. … We'll just have to go back out there and prove people wrong again."

Baltimore might have had an easier time against Houston in the conference final, but many Ravens longed for a rematch of last year's AFC title game, won by the Patriots 23-20.

"I think we personally kind of wanted to play the Patriots again," Ngata said. "If we go to the Super Bowl, it would be great to go through Foxborough."

NEW ASSISTANT: The Patriots' offensive staff will get a new member when Brian Daboll is added as an assistant. Coach Bill Belichick said Daboll, the offensive coordinator of the Chiefs under fired coach Romeo Crennel, would join the staff "going forward, similar to what Josh (McDaniels) did last year but without any specific responsibility." Daboll was a Patriots assistant from 2000-06.

AFC title game

Ravens at Patriots, 6:30 Sunday, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.

TV: Ch. 10 Line: Patriots by 9½

Patriots minus Gronkowski 01/14/13 [Last modified: Monday, January 14, 2013 10:10pm]

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