FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Here are my final thoughts from the Browns’ 27-26 loss to the New England Patriots Sunday at Gillette Stadium:
>>This one was maddening on multiple counts. Start with the fact the Browns held a 12-point lead with 2:39 left in the game. I fully understand that Tom Brady is more than capable of rallying the Patriots to victory with less time, but conventional wisdom says that you don’t lose under those circumstances. Especially when your defense is playing as well as the Browns’ had for much of the day. That’s why there was stone silence and some tears in the visitor’s locker room afterward. For a change, there was no accusing the Browns of giving a game away. It was, in large measure, taken from them.
>>You knew it would require something extraordinary to help snatch what would have been the biggest victory in recent memory from the Browns’ grasp, and sure enough, there were not one but two questionable penalties: an unnecessary roughness call on
>>I hated that the Browns were unable to recover the onside kick after the Pats drew within five points with 1:01 remaining. That’s something that you need to make happen because you knew, as the Patriots were driving toward the end zone, that the attempt was coming. And
>>Kudos to Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton for doing a superb job of putting together a game plan that mostly befuddled Brady and the rest of the Patriots’ offense. Through large portions of the game, the Pats were limited to short throws, although they were able to find some success with yards after the catch. Brady was particularly frustrated in his attempts to get the ball to his most dangerous weapon, tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was shut out in the first half.
>>I cringed as much as anyone when I saw the hit that strong safety T.J. Ward delivered to Gronkowski’s right leg after the tight end made a catch in the third quarter. According to preliminary reports, the blow resulted in Gronk suffering a season-ending torn ACL/MCL, which is awful for any player but particularly one who means so much to his team. And I feel the additional sorrow that comes from knowing this player since he was in middle school. However, by no means was it a dirty play. Ward did what all defenders are encouraged to do through the NFL’s emphasis on preventing hits anywhere hear the head. He went low. And if you need an example of what Ward was trying to avoid, you need only look at the penalty Poyer drew on Edelman’s touchdown catch.
>>I’m thinking the Browns could send as many as five players to the Pro Bowl, which is remarkable considering their 4-9 record. Here’s my list of strong candidates: Gordon, Ward, cornerback
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