FOXBORO (CBS) — The Patriots offensive line received a massive boost on Sunday, with behemoth Trent Brown returning to the mix for the first time since Week 1. Brown got to start and played 46 snaps at right tackle for New England during the team’s 45-7 win over the Cleveland Browns.

Brown suffered a calf injury on New England’s first drive of the season, and had to wait until Sunday to finally get back on the field. He was hoping to return in Week 3 against the Saints, and then again in Week 4 when Tom Brady and the Buccaneers came to New England. But he tweaked his calf again in Week 4, and was placed on IR shortly after.

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For a football player, missing two months feels like an eternity.

“I was excited to get out there. I forgot how fun it is,” Brown told reporters following New England’s win. “It feels like it’s been three years since I played ball.”

Brown didn’t miss a beat though, and with his return, the offensive line had its finest game of the season. The running game operated at a high level despite the absence of lead back Damien Harris, with rookie Rhamondre Stevenson picking up 100 yards on his 20 carries. He took full advantage of some massive holes that the line opened up for him, as did just about anyone who carried the football for the Patriots on Sunday. New England ran for 184 yards overall, averaging 5.4 yards per carry.

And then there was Mac Jones, who was kept clean for much of the afternoon and had all the time he needed to operate the New England offense. He was sacked just twice by Cleveland’s vaunted pass rush, and with time on his side, Jones turned in his first three-touchdown day. The Patriots had built such a big lead that he got to watch most of the fourth quarter from the bench.

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Brown has been amazed at what he’s seen from Jones from afar. On Sunday, he finally got a nice long look up close at what the rookie has to offer.

“I pretty much knew what we had the first day of OTAs. He’s different,” Brown said of Jones. “He’s not just your average rookie quarterback. He has a lot of poise, but he’s super mature. He attacks every day like it’s game day. He prepares well. He’s just on top of everything.”

Though he wasn’t playing the last two months, Brown was still heavily involved in team meetings and was always offering words of encouragement to his fellow offensive linemen. The line really started to turn things around a few weeks ago, and on Sunday, put it all together for their finest performance of the season.

“With me coming back, I think that kind of just boosted everyone’s confidence, just seeing a 6-foot-9 body across the huddle,” said Brown. “It was fun. It was a fun win today.”

Now we’ll see how Bill Belichick handles the line the rest of the way now that Brown has a game under his belt. Mike Onwenu was the odd man out in the trenches, playing only 26 snaps on Sunday, with Ted Karras playing the entire game at left guard. Onwenu, who struggled at right tackle in Brown’s absence, could find himself back on the inside sometime soon.

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Whatever happens, Brown’s return gives Belichick some options the rest of the way, and the offensive line a massive individual to protect the quarterback and open holes for running backs.

CBSBoston.com Staff