BOSTON (CBS) — They just don’t like to win easy, do they?
The Patriots authored perhaps their most dramatic comeback in a season full of them by rallying from a late 12-point deficit to narrowly defeat the Cleveland Browns.
The game had a ton of ups and downs, so without further ado, let’s jump right into them.
One way to measure a player’s performance is by asking the question, “Did Player X set franchise records today?” If the answer is “yes,” then you’ve got a winner.
Shane Vereen did just that on Sunday, catching 12 passes for 153 yards and setting franchise records in both categories for running backs. He was the player who stepped up most, and his 50-yard catch-and-run set up the Patriots for their first touchdown of the day … which was scored by Vereen.
It wasn’t a perfect game for the quarterback, though four or five first-half drops helped keep him and the offense in check early. But with the team needing a miracle comeback, Brady was there to provide it yet again.
Brady had a fumble and an interception, but he completed 32 of his 52 attempts for 418 yards and two touchdowns. With the game on the line, he was the man, completing eight of nine passes (plus a spike) on the Patriots’ touchdown drive to cut the Browns’ lead to five, and then going 2-for-2 on the game-winning drive. That was capped off with a bullet to Danny Amendola while rolling right, ending Brady’s fifth comeback victory of 2013 and third in as many weeks.
Typically, a kicker makes his way onto the ups or downs for either making or missing a field goal, but in this case, it was a perfect onside kick from Gostkowski that earned him praise after this one.
Gostkowski tapped the ball up the middle of the field, almost perfectly getting the ball to slow down near the 10-yard mark. The ball was touched by a Browns player and recovered by Kyle Arrington, giving the Patriots the ball at the Cleveland 40-yard line.
“I’ve never been that jacked up after a game,” Gostkowski said. “I don’t celebrate too much after field goals but when we get an onside kick, I was all over the place. I probably looked like an idiot out there.”
A winning idiot, Steve. There’s a huge difference.
Stevan Ridley gets a Baby Steps Award for this one. He only carried the ball eight times, but he did pick up 35 yards, and most importantly he did not fumble. With Rob Gronkowski out (more on that shortly), Ridley’s going to have be a superstar for this team, and he can only do that if he’s not coughing up the football. He did that on Sunday, and the Patriots have to hope it continues.
That was the thought going through the minds of most people watching the game when they saw Rob Gronkowski lying on the turf in great pain, and their worst fears were confirmed when the cart came out to help Gronkowski off the field. He suffered a knee injury from a direct collision with the flying helmet of T.J. Ward, and reports say the team fears a torn ACL for the tight end.
Gronkowski has been one of the most unstoppable forces in the NFL when he’s healthy, but another serious injury is the last thing he needs. You just have to feel bad for him at this point.
Everyone In The First Half
Did some players have a decent first half? Maybe, but it didn’t really matter. The Patriots entered the game knowing they had been awful in the first half lately, and they ended up looking worse than ever. The offense generated absolutely nothing, as their only drive that didn’t end in a punt was the one that ended in Brady’s interception and the quarterback’s kneeldown to end the half.
The defense did an adequate job of limiting the Browns, but still, a 6-0 halftime deficit to the Browns had to have been a point of embarrassment for the Patriots.
Part of what makes Brady’s performance so impressive is that he was under duress for nearly the entire game. He was sacked four times, took an intentional grounding penalty and nearly took another, as the quarterback was never able to fully get comfortable in the pocket all day long. Considering Brady is pretty important to this team, protecting him ought to take some precedence going forward.
It’s hard to get on the cornerback too much, considering Josh Gordon looks to be the real deal. Yet, the wide receiver picked up 151 receiving yards on seven catches, including an 80-yard touchdown, and much of it when matched up 1-on-1 with Talib. While it’s true that the 151 yards was actually a step back for Gordon, who gained 498 yards in the previous two weeks, it still wasn’t a performance with many plays that will make Talib’s career highlight reel.
“Hey, he’s a hell of a player, man,” Talib said of Gordon after the game. “He’s young – I think he’s about 22, 23 [years old]. He’s going to make some noise in this league. He’s pretty good.”