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Loss maddening for many reasons

Posted Dec 8, 2013

Senior Editor Vic Carucci offers his thoughts on the Browns’ 27-26 loss to the New England Patriots Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

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 Jordan Poyer on Brady’s two-yard touchdown throw to Julian Edelman that cut the score to 26-21 (and was enforced on the kickoff, which ultimately allowed the Patriots to get the ball on the Browns’ 40 after they recovered an onside kick) and a pass-interference flag on Leon McFadden that set up Brady’s one-yard throw to Danny Amdendola for the winning score. And how about Billy Cundiff’s 58-yard field-goal attempt falling just short with one second left? Calling the outcome a heartbreaker doesn’t seem to do it justice. It was something worse than that because the pain lingers.

>>Just once, I’d like to see Josh Gordon get to celebrate a great game with a great victory. This marked three weeks in a row that he was spectacular … and was left with nothing to show for it. Gordon is an absolute freak, and has legitimately made a case to be regarded as the best receiver in the game. Calvin Johnson is great, but Gordon has moved right next to him as someone whose incredible combination of size, speed, and strength allow him to simply take over a game. And he took over this game to the tune of seven catches for 151 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown. He needed only 11 games (after missing the first two due to an NFL suspension) to break the Browns’ single-game record for receiving yards. He surpassed Johnson for the most receiving yards in a four-game span. And he has dealt with five changes at starting quarterback (there actually have been six, but Gordon missed Brandon Weeden’s two-game starting stretch at the beginning of the season before Weeden suffered a thumb injury). Johnson has been able to pretty much work consistently with a fairly talented quarterback named Matthew Stafford.

>>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 Fozzy Whittaker appeared to have a good chance of falling on the ball. The Browns have seen numerous changes in special-teams personnel throughout the season, but they still needed to be ready to make what would have been a game-sealing play in that situation.

>>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 Joe Haden, offensive tackle Joe Thomas, and tight end Jordan Cameron.

>>Caruccis Call is presented by Revol Wireless. Come Save With Us.

>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET, for Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com.

>>Have a question for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”? Ask me at Twitter.com/viccarucci or by e-mail at daily@clevelandbrowns.com or by calling 855-363-2459.

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