Once New England jumped out to a very early 14-0 lead in this one, there was never any doubt as to the game's outcome. With rookie Luke McCown taking snaps for the Browns, the Patriots intercepted him twice and returned a fumble for a score to give Cleveland no hope.
Corey Dillon ran for 100 yards while Kevin Faulk tacked on another 87 in relief of No. 28. The Patriots also got an extended look at Cedric Cobbs who ran for 29 yards. No Patriots receiver caught more than three passes despite the 42 points.
If there was any emotional edge the Browns had going in, it was quickly taken away as Bethel Johnson returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for the game's first points. Johnson was barely touched throughout the run.
After the Browns failed to gain a yard in its first possession, Dillon cracked a 21-yard first down run on the Patriots next try. But at the Browns 35, Brady was sacked on third down by Kenard Lang. Gerard Warren was flagged for a roughing call on an obvious helmet-to-helmet hit, negating the 10-yard loss. New England was unable to take advantage of the break as Lang broke through yet again on second down, sacking Brady for a 4-yard loss. This time, the ball came loose and the Patriots were fortunate Dan Koppen was nearby to recover. In the end, New England was forced to punt despite the optimistic start to the drive.
The two teams traded turnovers later in the first quarter, New England's came on a fumble by Dillon when Warren grazed his elbow just as he made the exchange with Brady and he dropped the ball. A play later, rookie Luke McCown threw into double coverage down at the Patriots 5-yard line and Rodney Harrison made a nice over-the-shoulder interception to get the ball right back for New England.
The Patriots offense aimed to settle things down and looked to Dillon on the ground to do it on the next series. He ran six times ending with a 4-yard touchdown plunge. The Browns had trouble throughout the drive getting penetration and with their defense up close to defend the run, Brady hit Christian Fauria late in the drive for a gain of 25 down to the Browns 11. Two Dillon runs from there was all that was needed to give the Patriots a 14-0 lead as the first quarter ended.
New England went on the march again with its first series of the second quarter. Dillon did most of the work once more but the big play was a pass interference call on Lewis Sanders who was trailing David Patten on a long pass down the middle. Sanders reached up and put his hand on Patten's back and then the two got their feet tangled. The flag could just have easily been kept in the ref's pocket but the call was made and placed the ball on the Browns 5, a 39 yard pick-up.
Givens then caught a pass for 4 yards and Dillon ran it in from the 1, his second touchdown of the day.
Joe Andruzzi was walked to the locker room following the drive with a left leg injury.
It looked like Harrison had his second pick of the day with just under six minutes left in the first half. McCown intended a pass to Antonio Bryant but the ball deflected off his chest and Harrison snagged it just before it hit the ground. The Browns challenged the Harrison catch and it was ruled that Harrison dropped the ball and never had possession.
The play came on third down and so the end result was a Cleveland punt.
Later in the second quarter, Dillon left the game with a leg injury and 98 rushing yards only to return for one more carry to reach the century mark.
The Browns got on the scoreboard with 50 seconds left in the first half. McCown started completing passes with the biggest a 25-yarder to Northcutt down to the Patriots 12. A holding penalty on Cleveland's Frisman Jackson made things a little more difficult for Cleveland but Jackson made up for the mistake as he unwittingly tipped McCown's pass two plays later into the hands of Bryant in the end zone.
That made the score 21-7. New England made an attmept at another score as time ran out in the half but Brady was intercepted by Sanders to essentially end the first 30 minutes of play.
The second half opened with disastrous results for the Browns. William Green was tackled by Richard Seymour on the third play and coughed up the ball. Randall Gay scooped it up and made a nice 41-yard run for the touchdown.
The Patriots piled on the points later in the third quarter, putting together a methodical 73-yard drive with Cedric Cobbs the primary running back. Daniel Graham chipped in with a 14-yard catch and run as did Patrick Pass, picking up 17 with his. Once at the Browns 10, Kevin Faulk bounced his way in up the middle.
Amazingly, things got worse for Cleveland. Aaron Shea fumbled on the the Browns next possession. Dexter Reid forced it and Eugene Wilson recovered it. Four plays later Brady went long to Patten for a 44-yard touchdown hook-up. Brady had just thrown incomplete to Givens on a similar call just one play prior. This time, Patten was able to create just enough separation to grab the well-thrown pass.
Rohan Davey came into the game as the third quarter came to an end and would have continued the onslaught except the Patriots decided to go for a fourth-and-goal from the 5 rather than adding to the 42-7 lead with a field goal. Cobbs was stopped for no gain and the Browns took over. Davey had a nice pass to Patten for 17 yards on fourth-and-13 earlier in the series.
It only took McCown and the Browns two plays to make the most out of the Patriots defensive substitutions on their next series, a 53-yard pass to Northcutt and then a 40-yarder to Bryant for the score. Cleveland completed the two-point conversion to make the score 42-15 with 10:02 left to play.