FOXBORO — The Patriots pulled out another late win, topping the Browns with 13 points in the last 1:09 for a 27-26 win over Cleveland to come away with the victory.
New England fell behind in this one and it looked bleak, particularly after Cleveland took a 26-14 lead late in the fourth quarter. But, quarterback Tom Brady put together an 11-play, 82-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard pass from Brady to Julian Edelman that made the score 26-21 with just over a minute left.
After New England’s Kyle Arrington recovered the onside kick, the Patriots got down to the Cleveland 1-yard line after a pass interference call on Browns cornerback Joe Haden. New England then took the lead for good after Brady hit Danny Amendola on a 1-yard touchdown pass for the game winner.
A 57-yard field goal attempt from Billy Cundiff fell short as time expired.
Brady finished 32-for-52 for 418 yards with two touchdowns and one interception as the Patriots went to 10-3 on the season.
The comeback win overshadows the fact that Rob Gronkowski went down with what appeared to be a nasty right leg injury. At the end of a nifty pass play from Brady, the tight end was felled by Cleveland defensive back T.J. Ward, going down following the catch. He was carted off the field, and did not return. While there was no official word on what happened — the team termed it a leg injury — it certainly appeared to be the sort of thing that might end up being a long-term problem for the Patriots. One report Sunday afternoon quoted a source as saying it was “not looking good.”
After Gronkowski went down, the Patriots got an offensive boost from Shane Vereen, as running back continued his emergence as one of the more dependable elements of the New England offense — particularly in the passing game — as he finished with 12 catches for 153 yards on the afternoon.
On the other side of the ball, the Browns got an efficient performance from quarterback Jason Campbell, who went 29-for-44 for 391 yards with three touchdowns. After being held in check early, Josh Gordon had seven catches for 151 yards and one touchdown.
Here are a few quick notes on the game.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
• Vereen also had an impressive afternoon, but was at his best on a 50-yard pass play with Brady at the end of the third quarter where he was able to beat his man deep and almost reach the end zone. The 50-yarder tied for the fourth-longest reception of 2013, tying a 50-yard pickup by Gronkowski last week against the Texans.
• The other offensive player who did the best job distinguishing himself was probably Blount, who ran hard throughout the afternoon and did a nice job picking up some tough yardage throughout the contest. He also had his first catch of the season, a 32-yarder that set up the first score of the day, a 33-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski to make it 12-3 with 1:37 left in the third quarter.
• Gostkowski had another terrific afternoon, delivering on a 33-yard field goal in the third quarter to help get the Patriots on the board and adding a 50-yarder in the fourth quarter to make it 19-14. It marked the fifth field goal of the season of at least 50 yards for Gostkowski, who is having an excellent season.
WHAT WENT WRONG
• The loss of Gronkowski is huge. The big fella had just started to really revert back to the hard charging tight end that was able to dominate defenses — entering Sunday’s game against the Browns, he had 27 catches for 419 yards and four touchdowns over the previous four games. If he’s out for an extended stretch, it would be a sizable blow for a New England offense that had just started to find its footing.
• Another slow start. The Patriots offense was amazingly inept over the first two quarters — New England could not get any sort of offensive traction. The Patriots ran just three plays in Cleveland territory in the first half, as Brady was 7-for-19 for 95 yards and an interception over the first two quarters. (The best offensive performance early on was likely LeGarrette Blount, who had a game-high 36 yards on the ground over the first two quarters.) Over the last five games, New England has been outscored over the first two quarters by a 67-34 margin. Those slow starts are not sustainable when it comes to postseason success.
• Aqib Talib looked good out of the gate against Gordon, but picked up some bad penalties while working on coverage (including hands to the face, defensive holding and pass interference), and was given the stiff arm by Gordon on an impressive 80-yard scoring strike from Campbell to Gordon late in the third, a play that gave Cleveland a 19-3 lead.