Rob Gronkowki's ankle injury
One thing that happened before Super Bowl XLVI also had a profound effect on the game. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski injured his ankle during the AFC Championship Game vs. Baltimore, and it wasn't known for sure whether Gronkowski would play.
Gronk played in the game, but the injury limited his mobility and effectiveness.
He was targeted three times, catching two passes for 26 yards. The Patriots could have used a healthy Gronkowski in their 21-17 loss.