End of game: It was a thrilling battle at Gillette Stadium and unfortunately for Cleveland a horrendous pass interference call by an official in the end zone cost it the game.
Tom Brady orchestrated yet another fourth-quarter comeback, which saw New England squeak out a 27-26 victory over the Browns. Kicker Billy Cundiff missed a 58-yard field-goal attempt as time expired for the visitors.
|Positional Unit||First-Half Grade||Final Grade|
Week 14 vs. Patriots
Final Analysis for Cleveland
Pass Offense: Jason Campbell did an exceptional job of spreading the ball around to nine different receivers. A perfect example of this is backup tight end Gary Barnidge shocking everyone by scoring a 40-yard touchdown. For the Browns offense, it was a definite positive to see Jordan Cameron bounce back with nine catches and a key touchdown late in the final quarter. Campbell was the boost this club needed as he posted 391 yards in the air, 27 on the ground, three touchdowns, zero interceptions and a passer rating of 116.8.
Josh Gordon’s quest to be the best wide receiver in the NFL took another step forward today. After being neutralized early, Gordon broke the Browns’ single-season yards record and caught a gorgeous 80-yard touchdown pass right in the face of cornerback Aqib Talib. No. 12 totaled 151 yards and becomes the first Browns receiver to get four straight 100 yard receiving games.
Run Offense: The Browns were actually able to stay with the running attack more than usual since they had a lead into the second half. Some nice efforts by all the backs as Chris Ogbonnaya, Fozzy Whittaker and Willis McGahee chipped away at the depleted New England defense. The rushing game did just enough to keep the Patriots honest as collectively the three ran for 47 yards. McGahee suffered what appeared to be a neck injury on a red-zone handoff late in the fourth. Josh Gordon also contributed with a 34-yard reverse.
Pass Defense: Jabaal Sheard started off the second half with a big sack as the Browns continued to hold Tom Brady in check through the initial three quarters. Paul Kruger forced Brady to fumble and John Hughes recovered in the third frame as well, although Cleveland could not get points off of the turnover. The Browns front seven collectively made Brady uncomfortable all afternoon and made the veteran QB earn every completion.
D’Qwell Jackson, Ahtyba Rubin, Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo all had phenomenal outings. Cleveland recorded four sacks, one interception and recovered a fumble off of Brady.
One area of concern was Joe Haden getting burned once again in a game on a deep throw, this one for 51 yards to Shane Vereen, as Brady marched quickly down the field to immediately counter Cleveland’s touchdown to Gordon with a score of his own.
Star tight end Rob Gronkowski injured his right knee on a hit by T.J. Ward in the third. Gronk was carted off the field and it looked serious.
Run Defense: LeGarrette Blount punished the Browns all afternoon both on the ground and through the air. Blount gashed Cleveland’s front seven for 42 yards on eight carries. Luckily for Cleveland, it had a lead as the second half wore on, which forced New England to largely abandon the rush.
Special Teams: A good day overall for the special teams. Kicker Billy Cundiff converted two field goals, while punter Spencer Lanning did a nice job on punt placements. Coverage units did not allow any big gains and were aggressive throughout. Cundiff was injured on the extra point following Cameron’s fourth-quarter touchdown and Lanning kicked the ensuing kickoff.
Cundiff missed a near-impossible 58-yard attempt as time expired that would've won the game. Can't blame the kicker on that one.
Coaching: Following the Browns’ third-quarter touchdown, head coach Rob Chudzinski wisely rolled the dice and went for the two-point conversion, as it would have given Cleveland 14 points. The play call on that conversion attempt was atrocious as the ball was handed to Chris Ogbonnaya up the middle and he went absolutely nowhere. Confusing decision to go on the ground in that situation when the team had no success doing so up to that point.
Coach Chud challenged and won two calls on the field today, one in each half. Overall, the offensive and defensive play selections for the Browns were exquisite.
First-half Analysis for Cleveland
Pass Offense: As expected, explosive wide receiver Josh Gordon was focused on heavily by New England’s secondary. Even with the extra attention, Gordon still made a beautiful 19-yard reception over his shoulder in the second frame and finished the half with three catches for 42 yards. As he passed the 40-yard mark on the afternoon, No. 12 became the single-season yards record holder for Cleveland. He hopped over Braylon Edwards' 1,289 yards from 2007.
The focus on Gordon opened up tight end Jordan Cameron as he finally emerged from his midseason slump and grabbed three balls for 36 yards.
Run Offense: Credit to the Browns for staying with the run, however, it was relatively ineffective. If they can stick with it, then that should open up some downfield opportunities for quarterback Jason Campbell. Willis McGahee was battling all half and an inspiring second effort saw him squeak out a first down on 3rd-and-1 late in the half.
Pass Defense: Cleveland started well in shutting down Tom Brady on the opening series, specifically taking away Rob Gronkowski with two incomplete passes to the tight end.
Tremendous pressure in the first quarter on Brady as a Ahtyba Rubin near-sack set up a D’Qwell Jackson interception over the middle. Jackson was no doubt the Browns' MVP on defense. He was all over the field, recording four tackles and a pass deflection in addition to his pick.
Incredibly, the Browns held Brady to just 95 passing yards with an awful passer rating of 31.7.
Run Defense: The Browns' struggles in stopping the run continued as LeGarrette Blount was able to slice up the middle of Cleveland’s offensive line. Blount rumbled for 36 yards and averaged 6.0 yards per carry.
Special Teams: A good half for Cleveland’s special teams as kicker Billy Cundiff connected on two field goals from 43 and 37 yards, respectively. Jordan Poyer was excellent on the coverage units as he pinned Josh Boyce inside the 10 on a kickoff return attempt. Punter Spencer Lanning was solid on his three punts, especially on a late second-quarter punt that pinned the Patriots inside the five.
Coaching: Defensive coordinator Ray Horton was at his creative best over the opening half. On several occasions safety T.J. Ward was lined up as an inside linebacker and Jordan Poyer as a deep safety. These multiple looks appear to be confusing Brady as his usual quick release of the ball has been delayed.
Head coach Rob Chudzinski challenged the ball position on 3rd-and-1 in the second quarter as it looked like Willis McGahee did enough for the first down. The calculated gamble paid off as the decision was reversed.
Andy McNamara is an international sports broadcaster and journalist.
Follow Andy on Twitter @AndyMc81