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Rob Gronkowski goes down in a heap and carted off field with reported torn ACL

The Patriots struggled without Rob Gronkowski at the beginning of the season, then caught fire when he was finally healthy.

All of New England understands the ramifications of Gronkowski's latest injury, which looked awful.

With 8:27 left in the third quarter and the Patriots trailing Cleveland 12-0, Gronkowski was hauling in a pass when he was hit low by Browns safety T.J. Ward. He dropped the ball and immediately clutched his right leg in pain. He stayed down until the cart came out to take him off the field. He didn't put any weight on his right leg as he got on the cart.

Multiple reports said that the initial diagnosis is a torn ACL for Gronkowski. That would end his season.

Ward's low hit is the exact type of hit that offensive players have complained and worried about. Those type of hits might become more prevalent with the emphasis on taking high hits out of the game.

On the play after Gronkowski's injury, Tom Brady lost a fumble as he was being sacked. That might be a sign of things to come.

If Gronkowski is out for a while it could change the entire AFC playoff picture. The Broncos would become the clear favorite. The Bengals would still be alive to catch the Patriots and get the second seed and a bye in the first round of the playoffs.

The Patriots just haven't been the same without Gronkowski. The team will wait and see if they can get him back at some point this season.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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