It was the kind of play that made Patriots fans collectively hold their breath. And not in a good way, like, say, a late 32-yard missed field goal by the opposing kicker.
Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots' enormously talented and just plain enormous second-year tight end, came up limping after hauling in a 23-yard pass with 43 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Replays showed Gronkowski's ankle twisted at a grotesque angle, and as he limped to the locker room, the Patriots had to wonder whether the essential tight end had made his final catch of the season.
The name of the tackler was familiar, also not in a good way. It was Bernard Pollard.
Yes, the same Bernard Pollard whose hit blew out Tom Brady's knee in the opener of the 2008 season. The same Bernard Pollard who was in the vicinity when Wes Welker's knee gave out on him in the 2009 regular-season finale in Houston. Bad things happen to Patriots when he's around.
But it appears as though this isn't the worst-case scenario with Gronkowski. While he wouldn't talk about his injury after the game -- "I'm all done talking,'' he said matter-of-factly when asked about his injury, "I've been talking all day" -- his left ankle appeared slightly swollen but not alarmingly so.
And perhaps most importantly, he did return to the game in the fourth quarter, drawing some of the biggest roars of the day from the Gillette Stadium crowd.
Before the questions came about his status, Gronkowski did do an interview for NESN and spoke briefly to reporters about what it means to him to be playing in the Super Bowl in his second season in the league.
"Emotions are flying high," he said. "It's unbelievable. It's my second year in the league, playing with a great team, and you have to enjoy the moment. It doesn't even feel right, especially playing with the veterans here. I watched them go to the Super Bowl as I was growing up, and now I'm a part of it? It is an unreal moment and you can't take it for granted."