The New England Patriots have done just fine without Rob Gronkowski.
On Sunday, they'll see whether that continues or if their valuable tight end's absence will keep them from a second straight Super Bowl appearance.
"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 of their 41-28 win over the Houston Texans in Sunday's AFC divisional playoff game. He'll probably do it again in the conference championship game against the Ray Lewis-led defense of the Baltimore Ravens following Gronkowski's season-ending surgery Monday.
"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."
Hoomanawanui didn't catch any passes. But Gronkowski, who had 90 receptions last season and 55 in 11 games this season, had no catches in the Patriots' two games against Houston this season. And they dominated both contests.
Gronkowski was sidelined for the 42-14 rout on Dec. 10, the third of five games he missed after breaking his left forearm while blocking on an extra point late in a 59-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 18. He sat out the rest of Sunday's game after breaking his arm when he landed on it after catching a pass down the right sideline by Tom Brady that was ruled incomplete because Gronkowski didn't get both feet inbounds.
He had surgery on Monday.
Around the league
Eagles • Former Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt interviewed with Philadelphia on Monday morning as the team's search to replace Andy Reid entered its third week. Whisenhunt was dismissed by Arizona on Dec. 31 after six seasons. The Eagles also were scheduled to interview Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden on Monday, bringing the total number of known candidates to 11.
Lions • Detroit parted ways with special teams coordinator Danny Crossman, whose coaching was scrutinized after Detroit became the first team since at least 1940 to give up a kickoff and a punt return for touchdowns in consecutive games last season.
Dolphins • Owner Stephen Ross unveiled a plan to modernize Sun Life Stadium on Monday, and promising to personally cover the majority of the $400 million estimated cost of the project.