Injuries put a damper on the Patriots’ win in New Orleans

New Orleans, LA:  September 17, 2017: The Patriots running back corps, including Rex Burkhead (34) asnd Brandon Bolden (38) leap in celebration following a second quarter touchdown run by Mike Gillislee (far right)  The New England Patriots visited the New Orleans Saints in a regular season NFL football game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff).
New Orleans, LA: September 17, 2017: The Patriots running back corps, including Rex Burkhead (34) asnd Brandon Bolden (38) leap in celebration following a second quarter touchdown run by Mike Gillislee (far right) The New England Patriots visited the New Orleans Saints in a regular season NFL football game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff). –Jim Davis/Boston Globe

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COMMENTARY

Everything is seemingly back to normal for the New England Patriots.

Rob Gronkowski could be injured.

OK, so it was more of a return to regularity for plenty of other positive results from New Orleans on Sunday, when the Patriots earned their first win of the 2017 season, 36-20 over the Saints. Tom Brady threw for three touchdowns and 447 yards, the third-most during any game over his storied career. The New England defense, coming off its pathetic debut against the Kansas City Chiefs 10 days ago, contained Drew Brees and the dangerous Saints offense to two touchdowns. Gronkowski (116 yards receiving and a 53-yard touchdown) was a major factor after barely showing a presence in Game 1.

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The Patriots are back in first place in the AFC East. That old, familiar feeling.

Just like wondering what the next step might be for an injured Gronk.

Actually, the new sideline medical tent instituted by the NFL this season has instantly become a frightening place. Patriot fans have already watched linebacker Dont’a Hightower, Gronkowski, and wide receiver Philip Dorsett duck in over the first two games with all the apprehension of a wide-eyed kid being suckered in by a carnie. As it was, Brady began Sunday’s game against New Orleans with only three wide receivers at his disposal — Dorsett, Chris Hogan, and Brandin Cooks — after Danny Amendola was ruled out with a concussion and a knee injury. Hogan limped off the field shortly after Gronkowski left in the third quarter with what was reported as a groin injury. Dorsett was in the dreaded tent by the fourth quarter, at which point Rex Burkhead had already left the game with a rib injury, as well as cornerback Eric Rowe with a groin issue.

If one of the Patriots’ main concerns this season was rebuilding the offense without injured Julian Edelman, now it’s suddenly become just putting bodies out there for Brady to throw to.

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“We’ll do the best we can with what we have to work with,” head coach Bill Belichick said with an eye on the Houston Texans looming next week. “That’s what we’ll do.”

Remember when the Patriots had so many wide receivers in training camp that it prompted newcomer Andrew Hawkins to retire?

Anybody have his phone number?

Just in case you have your fingers plugged into your ear drums insisting things will be fine within the flames that surround your kitchen table, that’s now Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell, Hightower, Amendola, Rowe, Hogan, Burkhead, and Gronkowski all with injury concerns attached to them after only two weeks of the season.

Not ideal. The medical report come midweek could contain a long list of names.
From Mardi Gras Sunday to Crash Wednesday.

Gronkowski declined to speak with reporters after the game in the Patriots locker room, but did smile with an assurance that all is fine, a similar refrain that came from Hogan. It’s an imperative sigh of relief for the time being seeing as Edelman won’t be seen until — possibly — 2018, and there’s general uncertainty surrounding Amendola. Not to mention, if Gronkowski goes down again, whether it be the groin, wrist, or the back yet again, tight end Dwayne Allen has thus far shown to be about as dependable a pass-catching tight end as tomato soup is a steel girder adhesive.

But offensively, at least, the Patriots were back in a groove, changing their identity from the uneven performance against the Chiefs. We can only assume wide receiver tryouts will take place Monday or Tuesday on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. Interested parties will be contacted in due time.

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“We’re nowhere close to where we need to be but we made progress from last week and that’s what we need moving forward,” Belichick said during his entertainingly-testy postgame presser, during which he bemoaned the team’s headsets malfunctioning at the Superdome. (Mike Tomlin, your thoughts?)

“We came down here to try to win, so it was a good trip.”

They did it with 555 offensive yards, the sixth-highest total in team history.

No Edelman. No Amendola.

Brady lost Gronkowski, Hogan, and Dorsett in the process. Good trip indeed.

Waiting for the repercussions is another matter.

It could be Cooks and whoever else is healthy next weekend against the Texans. Which should probably be enough anyway.

The Patriots have won, and Gronkowski might be banged up.

Business as usual. Finally.