That cold sensation you’re feeling is the thick, smothering damper being placed on this (likely) Patriots win. There’s now maybe suddenly some hope for the Ravens next weekend, assuming New England holds on to their 18-point lead over the final six minutes.

There’s so much hurt here, but also solace in the fact that this Patriots team played a significant chunk of the season without Rob Gronkowski, and there’s plenty of depth capable of stepping up in his absence.

Gronk aggravated his elbow injury that cost him five games this year early in the first quarter when he fell awkwardly, and he’ll need more surgery.

Immediately the questions have started regarding the decision to play Gronkowski following a recently healed injury, complete with odd comparisons to the Robert Griffin III situation from last weekend.

When he originally suffered his injury back in Week 11, Gronkowski was given a projected recovery period of four-to-six weeks. He then sat out five weeks before making a limited playoff tune-up appearance in Week 17 against the Dolphins (he had 42 yards on two receptions, with a touchdown). He was then given another week of rest with the Patriots’ bye, meaning that over the past 55 days, Gronkowski played in only one game of competitive football prior to tonight.

Griffin, meanwhile, was a shell of himself after he returned from his knee injury following one missed game, and his condition gradually deteriorated. You know the rest: an already hobbled quarterback tweaked the injury in the first quarter last week before ripping apart all of the muscles later in the game, and he may or may not be ready for Week 1 next fall.

NFL Network’s Albert Breer asked Bill Belichick about his decision to play Gronkowski, and he simply said that it wasn’t his decision. Instead, it was the medical team’s call. We all know that’s only partially true, but it doesn’t change the fact that Gronkowski was ready and he had more than enough time to heal. Holding him out longer was unnecessary.

Clearly losing the league’s best tight end is painful. Just ask Vince Wilfork…

Combine this with Danny Woodhead’s exit in the first quarter due to a thumb injury, and the Patriots also may have lost a significant role player. But it won’t matter.

New England has the only roster capable of withstanding such blows, and churning along fine, thanks. No Gronk? Aaron Hernandez will take your footballs, and run with them. Hernandez had six catches for 85 yards today, and he averaged 56.6 receiving yards per game throughout Gronk’s absence during the regular season. No Woodhead to be your speedy little dude in the flats? Hey look, there’s Shane Vereen. Let’s give him the ball, and watch as he accumulates 83 receiving yards with two touchdowns, while adding 41 rushing yards and another touchdown (that all happened too).

Not having Gronk for the remainder of the playoffs will suck, but mostly for us. A healthy, fully functioning Gronk would go HAM in New Orleans for a week.