BY HAL BENT -
After talking all week about the need to start the game quickly, the New England Patriots came out at home against the 4-8 Cleveland Brownsand were outclassed on both sides of the ball early in the game. The Patriots were fortunate to only be down 6-0 at the half as quarterback Tom Brady was only 7 of 19 passing in the first half without completing a pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski. Plagued by drops, bad passes, and an inconsistent running game, the Patriots offense looked eerily similar to their early season struggles; however, this unit had most of their top weapons on the field and was still stymied by the Browns swarming and aggressive defense.
The Browns offense was determined to play keep away, trying to extend drives and run the ball and control the clock. The Patriots game plan all went to the wind in the second half when tight end Rob Gronkowski was injured at the end of a 21 yard reception when Cleveland safety T.J. Ward hit him on the right knee and Gronkowski went down hard and was unable to leave the field under his own power as he was carted off to the locker room in obvious pain. The extent of his injury is unknown, but it does not look good for the dominant tight end as his season is likely in jeopardy.
Without Gronkowski, the Patriots immediately lost all spark on both sides of the ball. Credit Cleveland offensive coordinator Norv Turner, quarterback Jason Campbell, tight end Jordan Cameron, and especially wide receiver Josh Gordon who all planned and executed a smart and aggressive offensive game plan to near perfection and led 26 to 14 late in the fourth quarter and seemed poised to pull off the huge upset.
However, Tom Brady and the Patriots offense drove down the field quickly getting the ball with 2:39 to play and down by 12 points. Brady worked exclusively to Julian Edelman and Shane Vereen hurrying down the field to get a touchdown strike to Julian Edelman in the back of the end zone. A vicious unnecessary roughness penalty on former Eagles cornerback Jordan Poyer hitting Julian Edelman hard in the head on the reception gave the Patriots a crucial 15 yards closer to the end zone.
Kicking off from the fifty yard line after the penalty, the Patriots were down 26-21 and attempted and recovered an onside kick to give them the ball at the forty. A quick check of replay showed no illegal touching and a legal recovery by Kyle Arrington. Tom Brady got to work right away with a quick pass to Danny Amendola to get New England to the thirty yard line. Tom Brady went for it all and lobbed the ball into the end zone to rookie wide receiver Josh Boyce. There was a very questionable pass interference call in the end zone on Cleveland quarterback Joe Haden that the Patriots were more than happy to accept. With a huge break again going their way and set up with first and goal at the one yard line with thirty-five seconds to play the Patriots were improbably in position to take the lead.
Quarterback Tom Brady found wide receiver Danny Amendola in the end zone to take the lead 27-26. The Patriots were unable to convert the two-point conversion as Shane Vereen was stopped short on a running play, but the fact that the Patriots were down 19-3, lost tight end Rob Gronkowski, and then were in position to take the lead with 31 seconds left in the game was remarkable. Quarterback Tom Brady threw for 323 yards in the second half and the Patriots defense was left to try to keep Cleveland from getting into field goal range...click here for much more: http://musketfire.com/2013/12/08/new-england-patriots-pull-out-amazing-comeback/