FOXBOROUGH, Mass. Shane Vereen went from seldom-used backup to the spotlight for the New England Patriots on Sunday.
A third-string running back, Vereen became essential in New England's offense after Danny Woodhead was injured on the Patriots' first play. While Stevan Ridley, a 1,200-yard rusher in the regular season, maintained the lead role, Vereen was the guy getting into the end zone three times.
"Shane had a great game, just a huge growing-up moment for him, very special," quarterback Tom Brady said after Vereen gained 124 total yards in a 41-28 divisional-round win over Houston.
The second-year back from Cal gained 400 yards in the regular season 251 rushing and 149 receiving. Vereen averaged four touches per game, yet there he was Sunday, catching touchdown passes of eight and 33 yards from Brady and running for a one-yard score. The 33-yarder featured a difficult over-the-shoulder grab along the left sideline.
"I don't come into the game knowing how much anyone is going to play," Vereen said. "I come into the game ready to go, and if my number is called, I do my best for the team."
Vereen took advantage and had a huge game, but he isn't even the most famous person in his family. Actor, singer and dancer Ben Vereen is a cousin.
New England couldn't have gotten to yet another AFC Championship Game without someone stepping up when Woodhead hurt his thumb.
"We hate to lose Woody," said Vereen, a second-round draft pick in 2011. "He is such a key part of our offense, but at the same time, all of the running backs hold ourselves accountable to be able to step up when somebody does go down."
Gronkowski reinjures arm Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski needs surgery on his broken left arm, a person with knowledge of the injury told the Associated Press.
Gronkowski was injured on the Patriots' eighth offensive play. He missed five regular-season games and is done for these playoffs.
"I'm not sure," coach Bill Belichick said hen asked if Gronkowski broke his arm.
Asked if Gronkowski had been taken to a hospital, Belichick said, "Look, I just walked off the field."
Belichick also said Gronkowski "wouldn't have played if he wasn't ready," and that "the doctors handle the medical decisions."
Rookie defensive end Chandler Jones hurt his ankle later in the game.
Gronkowski initially broke his left forearm while blocking for an extra point near the end of New England's 59-24 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 18 and underwent surgery. He returned for the regular-season finale, a 28-0 win over the Miami Dolphins.
Gronkowski was reinjured six minutes into Sunday's game on a deep pass down the right sideline from Brady. Gronkowski fell out of bounds as the pass dropped incomplete.
Gronkowski sat on the bench writhing in pain while talking to team doctor Thomas Gill before heading to the locker room.