This season, nothing comes easy for the Patriots.

Off-season turmoil, injuries, come from behind victories, it has been an interesting year for New England. After a game like this, there’s a lot to dissect. Here are five thoughts on the Patriots 27-26 victory over the Browns, in this week’s Monday Hangover. –

1) Rob Gronkowski’s knee injury overshadowed another Patriots comeback. Browns safety TJ Ward hit Gronkowski low Sunday, sending the all pro tight end twisting in the air. The microphones from the CBS broadcast could hear Gronkowski scream, “my (expletive) leg!”. Needless to say, it was an awful sight for Pats faithful.

Colleague and webmaster Ian Logue wrote about the topic here. Gronkowski had a MRI scan Monday morning, confirming he has a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee. His 2013 season is over and New England now has a huge hole in their offense.

2) Shane Vereen stepped up big time Sunday. Vereen, listed as my player of the game, set a franchise record in receptions (12) and receiving yards (153) for a running back. He has not been utilized nearly as much in the running game, but has been a weapon in the Pats passing attack. He will have to continue producing in order for the Patriots to help move on from Gronkowski.

3) Josh Boyce received quality snaps Sunday in his most extensive action as a rookie. Boyce, a fourth-round draft pick out of Texas-Christian University, showed his dynamic playmaking ability when he was in the open field. The rookie wide out hauled in three catches for 49 yards Sunday.

With rookie receivers Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson out with injuries, Boyce stepped in. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels put Boyce in position to get into the open field and make plays. While he is still very raw, he should earn some playing time moving forward. His field vision and cutting ability opened some eyes.

4) New England may have won the game, but both the offensive and defensive line lost their respective battles Sunday. At this point, both are the team’s biggest weaknesses based on injures and performance. The Patriots offensive line struggled to sustain blocks for tailbacks and allowed four sacks in the passing game. The offensive line has been shaky all season, but this might have been their worst performance. The team has invested too much in terms of money and draft picks for this (lack of) production.

5) The Patriots, now 10-3 on the season, go on the road to face the Miami Dolphins in week fifteen. The Dolphins beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh Sunday and look to keep their playoff hopes alive. If the Patriots win, they will wrap up their fifth straight division title. Going to Miami is always a tough task for the Patriots, but we’ll see how they respond following another critical injury next week.

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