CLEVELAND-- The NFL did the Browns no favors by suspending Tom Brady for four games.
Game five was against the Browns and Brady showed no signs of rust as he returned to the field after a four-game suspension from the NFL for his role in 'Deflate-Gate' in leading the Patriots to a 33-13 win over the Browns in front of 67,431 fans at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Patriots improved to 4-1, while the Browns remain the only winless team in the NFL at 0-5.
Brady strode on to the field for the first time to a huge ovation from Patriots fans who travelled to Cleveland to see Brady and the Patriots.
He then promptly led New England the length of the field on drives of 80-, 75- and 64-yards on the Patriots first three possessions. On the fourth possession, Brady threw a 63-yard pass to wide receiver Chris Hogan, who got behind Joe Haden that set up a first and goal from the six. However, the Browns were able to stop LeGarrette Blount on fourth-and-goal from the one.
By halftime, Brady was 18-of-25 for 271 yards with two touchdowns to Martellus Bennett and a rating of 133.9. Brady threw a third touchdown pass to Bennett on the first drive of the third quarter to give the Patriots a 30-7 lead.
Brady finished midway through the fourth quarter and was 28 -of-40 for 406 yards, including three touchdowns. His rating was 127.7.
Hue Jackson said the Browns would like to emulate the Patriots organization someday and was asked where the team is in their pursuit of that goal.
“I don’t know that," Jackson said. "We will not know that until the season is over. Obviously, we have a ways to go. Right now, we are not close, but I think our guys are improving in some areas and getting better. We just have to continue to get better collectively as a team and then we will look back and see exactly where we are.
"These are the games that you will point to to where we will make our biggest growth because I think when you play against an opponent that is as good as I think that team is because I think that is the best team we have played this season, you have a different barometer to look at and to judge everything by," he said. "I think I do. I think we all do. That is what the champions – because they have been – that is what the division champions look like – that is what they look like. That is what they play like. That is what we hope to be so that is what you are going to have to defeat as you move forward.”
Where's the Run?: The Browns came into the game with the top rushing game in the NFL. However, when the game mattered in the first half RB Isaiah Crowell had 9 yards on 7 carries and RB Duke Johnson had minus one yard on three attempts. The Browns totals were 13 carries for 11 yards for a paltry average of 0.8 yards a carry. Through three quarters, the Browns had 19 yards on 18 attempts for a 1.1 average. Crowell finished with 22 yards on 13 carries, while Johnson finished with just one yard on four attempts. Crowell had the Browns longest rushing play of just six yards. Crowell caught one pass for 18 yards and Johnson caught two passes for 21 yards. All totaled, the Browns finished with just 27 yards rushing on 22 attempts (1.2 avg.).
Charlie's Debut: QB Charlie Whitehurst made his debut for the Browns, but it could be a one and done. Whitehurst was injured late in the game and did return to take a knee on the final play. Whitehurst entered in the second quarter with about 11 minutes remaining after QB Cody Kessler injured his ribs on the play that resulted in a safety as LB Dont'a Hightower landed on him in the end zone as he attempted to throw a pass to RB Duke Johnson, Jr. The pass went out of the end zone and resulted in a safety. Whitehurst's first pass was a 12-yard pass to TE Gary Barnidge for a first down.
Whitehurst played the entire second half and threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to rookie TE Connor Hamlett in his first game with 14:05 to play in the game to make the score 30-13. The Browns attempted a two-point conversion that failed. Whitehurst led the Browns on an 80-yard drive in seven plays for the score in 3:22.
Whitehurst was taken out after looking to have twist his knee in the last four minutes of the game and was replaced by WR/QB Terrelle Pryor to finish the game. He finished 14-of-24 for 182 yards with a touchdown and an interception and a rating of 78.8.
Mr. Do-It-All: With injuries to QB Cody Kessler and QB Charlie Whitehurst, WR Terrelle Pryor needed to return his former position late in the game. Pryor caught five passes for 48 yards, rushed twice for three yards and was 1-of-3 passing for 5 yards.
Receivers Game: TE Gary Barnidge led the Browns with five receptions for 76 yards, while WR Andrew Hawkins had five receptions for 56 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown. WR Terrelle Pryor had five receptions for 48 yards. The other Browns touchdown was scored by rookie TE Connor Hamlett on a 17-yard pass from Whitehurst.
Defensive Stand: After the 63 yard pass to Hogan, the Browns stopped the Patriots and turned over on downs as LB Demario Davis stopped RB LeGarrett Blount at the two yard line. LB Christian Kirksey led the Browns with 16 tackles, while Davis had 10. Kirksey was all over the field and had the most tackles in his career.
"We have to keep working," he said. "We have to get better in pass coverage."
Meder Sack: DL Jamie Meder had the Browns only sack on QB Tom Brady.
New O-Line again: The Browns started another different offensive line with OL Alvin Bailey moving back to RG and OL John Greco moving to center. The same combination the Browns used at Miami after OL Cameron Erving was injured against Baltimore. OL Austin Reiter started last week and Greoo moved back to RG with Bailey being benched for his OVI arrest after the Miami game. Last week, Reiter tore his ACL and will miss the rest of the season.
Nassib, Campbell Back: Rookie DL Carl Nassib returned to the field after missing two games with a broken hand. Campbell returned after being out with a h hamstring injury. Nassib was a reserve, while Campbell started in place of DB Derrick Kindred.Campbell had five tackles, while Nassib had a quarterback hurry.
Nice Debut: TE Connor Hamlett made his NFL debut a memorable one. With the injuries to TE Randall Telfer (ankle) and TE Seth DeValve (knee), he caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from QB Charlie Whitehurst with 14:05 left in the game.
Captains: Browns captains were CB Joe Haden, LB Demario Davis, LB Tank Carder and OL Joe Thomas. Former Browns RB Ernie Green was the honorary captain.
Former Browns: Beside former Browns coach Bill Belichick, DL Jabaal Sheard and LB Barkevious Mingo returned to Cleveland to take on the Browns. Sheard had 3 tackles, while Mingo had a stop on Duke Johnson on a punt return.
Inactive: For the Browns, all seven of the players have injuries: QB Josh McCown, WR Corey Coleman, DB Tramon Williams, OL Austin Reiter, OL Cameron Erving, TE Randall Telfer and TE Seth DeValve were inactive. Williams was listed as questionable with a shoulder injury, but the other two players questionable, DB Ibraheim Campbell (hamstring) and DL Carl Nassib (hand) played. Patriots inactive were: DB Justin Coleman, DB Eric Rowe, RB Brandon Bolden, LB Shea McClellin, OL Marcus Cannon, TE Greg Scruggs and DL Vincent Valentine.