They lost it here
Success early was Cleveland’s only option in this game. The Browns had utter failure.
After New England was held to a field goal on the opening drive, Cleveland did move the ball. QB Derek Anderson hit Joe Jurevicius for a 17-yard gain on a slant route, part of a drive that led to first-and-goal at the 1.
Then Jurevicius couldn’t haul in a pass from Anderson in the corner of the end zone, and running back Jason Write was stuffed. On third-and-goal, Anderson was flushed out of the pocket and threw across his body for tight end Steve Heiden. Patriots defensive back Asante Samuel batted the ball in the air, and Junior Seau intercepted it in the end zone. Anderson’s next pass also was an interception that led to a 10-0 deficit.
The Browns never recovered.
They said it
“I don’t think that was either team’s best game out there today. … Give Cleveland credit. They’re tough. They can move the ball like we talked about all week, and they showed that today. They gave us some problems defensively.”
-- New England Head Coach Bill Belichick
“You definitely take moral victories. People say you’re not supposed to, but in the end you have to. You look at what we didn’t do, but you say: ‘We did this. We able to do that.’ What morale victories allow you to believe is we can do this.”
-- Browns WR Braylon Edwards
Player of the game
Patriots TE Benjamin Watson had a career-high 107 yards receiving and two TDs. He also took an end around 11 yards. Browns Head Coach Romeo Crennel said he didn’t want Randy Moss to kill Cleveland.
“So we died by the hand of somebody else,” he said.
That would be Watson. New England QB Tom Brady did a good job finding his tight end open against Cleveland’s linebackers in the seam.
Up and down
QB Derek Anderson had his worst game of the season. Anderson was picked off three times and finished with a season-low passer rating of 59. He did complete 22-of-43 passes for 287 yards.
Braylon Edwards continues to have the hot hand. He had a team-high six catches for 110 yards, including a diving one-handed grab that Cleveland fans will remember for a while. Edwards is averaging 20.2 yards a catch and has 485 yards.
Kick returner Josh Cribbs was held below his season average of more than 30 yards a return. New England held Cribbs to 23.6 yards.
Cleveland’s running game wasn’t much to speak of. Jason Wright filled in admirably for Jamal Lewis, who left after his first carry, but Wright had just 59 yards on 15 carries.
Rookie QB Brady Quinn took his ballcap off and put his helmet on. He even took snaps from center Lennie Friedman on the sideline. It looked like Quinn might get his first playing time of the year when Derek Anderson was hurt just before halftime. Anderson took a timeout and recovered. Quinn put his ballcap back on. It is looking more and more like when Quinn plays, he won’t be coming off the field.
Tom Brady tied an NFL record when he threw his third touchdown pass. It was the Pro Bowler’s fifth consecutive game with three TD passes to start the season, tying Hall of Famer Steve Young.
The Browns lost Lewis after an 11-yard run, and the extent of his foot injury is not known. Cleveland also was without WR Joe Jurevicius (knee) and safety Brodney Pool (thigh bruise).
The Browns are minus-five in the turnover ratio, a big factor in their last two losses.
Grading the “O”
Yes, Cleveland moved the football. Sure, the Browns gained 353 yards. But some of those were desperation yards in the second half when the game wasn’t close. It doesn’t matter how well an offense moves the football if drives start or end with turnovers. Cleveland had four Sunday and put the defense in awful position.
Grading the “D”
New England’s high-octane offense scored 34 points, but half of those weren’t on the defense. One was a fumble return at the end of the game. Two other TDs came on short field after Cleveland interceptions. The secondary, which was banged up throughout the game, held up against one of the NFL’s best QBs.
Grading the coaches
Romeo Crennel didn’t roll out a deflated team in the second half. His players competed and made a game of it in the second half. No team wins in the NFL when it is minus-four on takeaways. That’s not on the coaching staff. In fact, the staff did a nice job of adjusting the game plan without RB Jamal Lewis for 99 percent of the game. Crennel obviously was trying to keep Anderson’s confidence after the game by putting just one of his three picks on the QB. That’s the sign of a coach who is starting to understand his players.
-- The Repository