Final recap: Browns 34, Patriots 14 (click here for the box score)
Coming off their bye week, the Browns (3-5) carried their momentum into Week 9 and stunned the New England Patriots (6-2) on Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The Browns upset the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in Week 7, and then worked some magic against the Patriots, who had won five consecutive games and had the NFL's best record heading into Sunday. Coach Eric Mangini got the best his former mentor, Patriots coach Bill Belichick, and Browns running back Peyton Hillis had a career day with 184 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Browns rookie quarterback Colt McCoy made his third consecutive start, and he made a strong case for himself to remain the starter even if Seneca Wallace and Jake Delhomme return from the high-ankle sprains that kept them inactive again. McCoy completed 14-of-19 passes for 174 yards without an interception for a career-high passer rating of 101.6. He also ran for a 16-yard touchdown. His pocket presence continues to improve, as he avoided pressure several times by rolling out and throwing on the run. The Patriots failed to record a sack. Meanwhile, Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady completed 19-of-36 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns, the only scores allowed by the Browns' defense. The Patriots were on the verge of trimming their lead to three points heading into halftime, but safety Abram Elam forced tight end Rob Gronkowski to fumble. Elam recovered at the Browns' 2-yard line, and Cleveland secured a 17-7 halftime lead. That was, arguably, the play of the game for the Browns. They used the momentum they gained from it to stop the Patriots on their opening drive of the second half. Then McCoy and Hillis led the Browns on a 10-play, 72-yard scoring drive that lasted 7 minutes. They produced another long scoring drive that started in the third quarter and ended in the fourth. The 13-play, 61-yard march lasted 7:48, and it was capped by Phil Dawson's second successful field-goal attempt of the day. Those long, efficient drives buried the Patriots and proved to everyone that McCoy can effectively guide the offense when it matters most. He should continue to start, no matter what.
End 1Q: Browns 10, Patriots 0 -- 1. Phil Dawson's 38-yard field goal capped a six-play, 42-yard opening drive, giving the Browns a 3-0 lead with 11:49 left in the first quarter. 2. Cleveland recovered the ensuing kickoff and scored two plays later when running back Peyton Hillis barreled ahead for 2 yards. Dawson's extra-point kick was good, and the Browns took a 10-0 lead with 11:11 left in the first quarter. Instant impressions -- 1. The Browns' opening drive stalled just outside the red zone, but the offense still got off to an encouraging start. Quarterback Colt McCoy completed his first pass to wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi for 21 yards. Running back Peyton Hillis looks like he's healthy again. He ran for 18 yards on his first carry. 2. Browns special-teams ace Ray Ventrone, who used to play for the Patriots, recovered the Browns' first kickoff of the game when New England's Sammy Morris failed to catch the ball. Cleveland's kickoff and punt coverage units have played extremely well this season. 3. Hillis has been running hard and dragging defenders, but he must be more careful. He fumbled while breaking some tackles, and the Patriots recovered. Fortunately for the Browns, their defense stepped up and didn't allow the Patriots to capitalize on Hillis' turnover. 4. The Browns have seemingly carried the momentum from their win over the Saints into Week 9. This is the largest deficit New England has faced after one quarter this season.
End 2Q: Browns 17, Patriots 7 -- 1. Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez caught a deflected pass from quarterback Tom Brady in the end zone to complete a 2-yard touchdown with 8:43 left in the second quarter. The PAT was good, and the Patriots trimmed the Browns' lead to 10-7. 2. Browns wide receiver Chansi Stuckey lined up behind right guard Billy Yates, took a handoff from Josh Cribbs out of the Wildcat and ran 11 yards for a touchdown. Dawson's PAT was good, and the Browns took a 17-7 lead with 3:23 left in the second quarter. Instant impressions -- 1. The Patriots changed their tempo on offense and made it difficult for the Browns to substitute into their different defensive packages. New England marched 79 yards in 11 plays, and capped their drive with a touchdown. 2. McCoy made the best play of his young professional career when he avoided a sack while rolling right and hit Cribbs with a 6-yard pass for a first down. On the next play, Stuckey ran for his touchdown. 3. Browns safety Abram Elam made perhaps the best play of his career a few minutes later. With tight end Rob Gronkowski fighting to score a touchdown, Elam ripped the ball out and recovered the fumble at Cleveland's 2-yard line with 22 seconds left in the first half. Instead of trimming the Browns' lead to three points, the Patriots trail by 10 at halftime because of Elam's takeaway.
End 3Q: Browns 24, Patriots 7 -- 1. McCoy scrambled and when he couldn't find anyone to throw to, he ran left for a 16-yard touchdown. McCoy dived head first with his arms extended, pushing the ball beyond the goal line. The Patriots challenged the touchdown, but the call on the field stood after a review. The PAT was good, and the Browns took a 24-7 lead with 5:53 left in the third quarter. Instant impressions -- 1. McCoy is underrated as a ball carrier. He can move. He can also throw well on the run, and he has proved it a few times against the Patriots. 2. The Browns' third-quarter touchdown drive was vital, not only because it extended their lead to 17 points, but because it was long. It took exactly 7 minutes off the clock. 3. At the end of the quarter, the Browns were in the midst of another time-consuming drive. They need to keep it up to bury New England's hopes of a comeback.
End 4Q: Browns 34, Patriots 14 -- 1. Phil Dawson hit a 37-yard field goal with 10:45 left in the fourth quarter. 2. Brady hit Hernandez with another touchdown pass, this time from 1-yard out. Wide receiver Wes Welker made the PAT while filling in for kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who suffered an injury earlier in the game. 2. Hillis ran for a 35-yard touchdown with 2:38 left in the fourth quarter. The PAT was good, and the Browns took a 34-14 lead. Instant impressions -- 1. Dawson's second field goal of the day capped another long drive. This one lasted 7:48, and Hillis was the key to it. 2. Brady was replaced by Brian Hoyer in the final minutes. Browns cornerback Eric Wright intercepted a pass from Hoyer soon after the latter entered the game.
Top storylines: 1. Mangini and his three coordinators -- Brian Daboll (offense), Rob Ryan (defense) and Brad Seely (special teams) -- will engage in a chess match with their former boss, Belichick. 2. Browns rookie quarterback Colt McCoy will make his third consecutive start. His first two were against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Saints, so he has quickly become accustomed to facing elite teams. 3. The Browns will face another star quarterback in New England's Tom Brady. Cleveland's three most recent opposing quarterbacks -- Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees and Brady -- have won six Super Bowls combined. 4. Browns running back Peyton Hillis' health should be much better than it has been in the previous three games. He had a chance to rest his strained quadriceps during the bye week, so it will be interesting to see if his production increases. 5. The Browns' offensive line will have its hands full against a stellar defensive front. Keep an eye on Patriots defensive end Mike Wright, who has recorded a sack in four consecutive games.
Inactive players: Browns -- QB Seneca Wallace, QB Jake Delhomme, RB Thomas Clayton, OL Steve Vallos, OL John St. Clair, TE Alex Smith, WR Demetrius Williams and DL Jayme Mitchell. Patriots -- WR Taylor Price, RB Fred Taylor, S Patrick Chung, S Jarrad Page, OL Rich Ohrnberger, C Ryan Wendell, OT Mark LeVoir and DL Kyle Love.
Lineup changes: Browns --Colt McCoy will start in place of Jake Delhomme at quarterback; Billy Yates will start in place of Floyd Womack at right guard; Womack will start in place of John St. Clair at right tackle. Patriots -- No announced lineup changes.