Fresh off of a dramatic overtime win in Miami, the AFC East-leading Patriots will look to extend their three-game winning streak when they return home to Gillette Stadium to host the Cleveland Browns. New England has won five of its last six games and has started its season with a 5-2 record for the first time since 1999. The Patriots have won three games in a row in front of the New England fans, but face a challenge from a Cleveland team that the Patriots expect to be up to the task. The Browns have won their last two road games, coming away victorious from Pittsburgh (33-13 on Oct. 5) and San Francisco (13-12 on Sept. 21).
"[The Browns] play their best football on the road," said Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick. "We all saw what they did to Pittsburgh. They went out and beat San Francisco in San Francisco. They've got a very talented team defensively, along with their receivers and their skill players on offense."
The Patriots will try to defend their turf against a Browns offense featuring running back William Green, the Boston College product who ranks fifth in the AFC with 559 rushing yards on 142 attempts. But Cleveland's second-year back will have his work cut out for him, as the New England run-stopping unit ranks seventh in the NFL. The Browns' aerial attack will have to contend with a Patriots secondary that has notched six interceptions in its last three games. Cornerback Tyrone Poole and safeties Rodney Harrison and Eugene Wilson each have two interceptions apiece in their last two games.
On offense, the Patriots will face a Cleveland defense ranked sixth in the NFL. The Browns have the league's top-rated pass defense, posing a healthy challenge to Tom Brady, Troy Brown and the rest of the Patriots offense. But the New England attack will be brimming with confidence following the 82-yard bomb from Brady to Brown on the final play of last week's dramatic 19-13 overtime win over the Dolphins, and will try to carry that momentum into this week's clash.
This week's game will be televised by CBS. The game can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4 in Boston. Dick Enberg will handle the play-by-play duties and Dan Dierdorf will provide analysis. Bonnie Bernstein will deliver reports from the sidelines throughout the game. Immediately following the game, the Fifth Quarter postgame show can be seen on WSBK-TV Channel 38 in Boston.
WBCN 104.1 FM is the flagship station for the Patriots Rock Radio Network. Play-by-play broadcaster Gil Santos is in his 27th season as the voice of the Patriots and calls the action along with Patriots Hall of Famer Gino Cappelletti. In 2003, Santos and Cappelletti celebrate their 20th season as a broadcast tandem.
The Patriots are 8-3 (.727) at Gillette Stadium since their new home opened in 2002, including a 3-0 record this season. The Patriots have won six of their last seven home games and are 14-5 (.737) at home since 2001. Foxborough has proven to be a very hospitable place for the Patriots since Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994. Since that time, the Patriots hold a 66-33 (.667) record at home, including preseason, regular season and postseason games.
CHANGING LEAVES AND CHANGING FORTUNES
New England is always a nice place to be in the month of October, and this year, the Patriots are sharing that sentiment. Although the leaves have changed, the Patriots have stayed on the winning track, enjoying a 3-0 start to the month. This week against the Browns, New England has an opportunity to go undefeated in October for the first time since 1978 and for just the second time in team history. The Patriots have already won two October home games and will try to treat the Gillette Stadium faithful by winning three home games in the same month for the first time since October of 1988. The Patriots' October success is a refreshing turnaround from the frightful experience last year, when New England was 0-3 in October.
The Patriots and Browns will meet for the 18th time in the regular season when the two clubs square off on Sunday. Including a 1994 playoff meeting, the Browns have won 12 of the 18 games between the teams. The Patriots have won three of their last four games against the Browns and are 4-2 against Cleveland since 1993. The series dates back to 1971, when New England suffered a 27-7 loss at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. The Patriots and Browns have played frequently recently, with this week's game marking the fourth time in five seasons the non-divisional foes have faced each other. Excluding the seasons when Cleveland did not have a team (1996-98), the Patriots and Browns have faced off in eight of the past nine seasons, with last season marking the only time the teams did not play over that span. The Patriots have won their last two matchups with Cleveland in Foxborough, including a 27-16 win in their most recent meeting two seasons ago.
Record in New England - 3-5
Record in Cleveland - 3-6
Total Points in the Series - Cleveland 340, Patriots 266
Largest Margin of Victory - 17 points (09/07/80)
Largest Margin of Defeat - 30 points (11/20/83)
Bill Belichick vs. Cleveland - 1-1
Butch Davis vs. New England - 0-1
THE LAST TIME
Patriots 27, Browns 16 – December 9, 2001
The Patriots improved to 8-5 in the 2001 season with a 27-16 win over the Browns at Foxboro Stadium. Cleveland took a 10-3 lead in the first quarter, but New England scored 17 unanswered points in the second quarter to take a 20-10 halftime lead that proved to be enough to win. Troy Brown was the star of the game for the Patriots, catching seven passes for 89 yards and returning a punt 85 yards for a touchdown late in the second quarter to put the Patriots up 17-10. Brown's punt return was the second longest in franchise history (tying Irving Fryar). Cleveland chipped back into the game, closing the gap to 20-16 in the fourth quarter, but a 5-yard touchdown run by Antowain Smith with 2:43 left in the game clinched the win for New England.
BILL BELICHICK IN CLEVELAND
Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns for five seasons from 1991-95. Belichick took over with the Browns coming off of what was their worst season in franchise history, a 3-13 campaign in 1990. By 1994, Belichick had coached the Browns to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth. While with the Browns, Belichick hired a significant number of coaches and scouts who have gone on to have significant success in the NFL or college football. Belichick's hires have produced four college head coaches, three NFL defensive coordinators and three NFL personnel directors, among many others who have attained success in the football world.
- Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick was the Browns head coach from 1991-1995. He was named the franchise's 10th head coach on Feb. 5, 1991, making him the NFL's youngest head coach at the age of 38.
- Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel served as the Browns defensive coordinator in 2000.
- Patriots tight ends/assistant offensive line coach Jeff Davidson was born on Oct. 3, 1967, in Akron, Ohio.
- Patriots quarterback coach John Hufnagel was the Browns quarterbacks coach for two seasons, 1999-2000.
- Patriots inside linebackers coach Pepper Johnson played for the Browns from 1993-95 under Head Coach Bill Belichick. He was also a two-time co-captain, defensive MVP, and All-American at Ohio State.
- Patriots defensive backs coach Eric Mangini was a coaching assistant for the Browns in 1995.
- Patriots vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli began his NFL career when Belichick hired him as a pro personnel assistant for the Browns in 1992.
- Patriots director of college scouting Thomas Dimitroff Jr., was born in Barberton, Ohio and began his career with four seasons of experience working in the Browns scouting department (1998-01). His father, Tom, was a long-time personnel scout for the Cleveland Browns.
- Patriots assistant director of college scouting Lionel Vital was first hired by Belichick as a scout for Browns in 1991, remaining with the team through the franchise's move to Baltimore in 1996.
- Patriots assistant director of pro scouting Keith Kidd came to New England in 2002 after serving three seasons as the Browns' director of pro personnel.
- Patriots safety Chris Akins spent the latter half of the 2001 and the entire 2002 season with the Browns.
- Patriots tackle Matt Light was born on June 23, 1978, in Greenville, Ohio. He was a three-year, two-way starter who played guard as a sophomore, tackle as a junior and tight end as a senior at Greenville High School.
- Patriots defensive lineman Rick Lyle was originally signed as a rookie free agent with the Cleveland Browns and Belichick on May 2, 1994.
- Patriots wide receiver David Patten spent the 2000 season with the Browns.
- Patriots defensive end Anthony Pleasant was originally drafted by Cleveland in the third round of the 1990 NFL draft. In six seasons with the Browns, Pleasant appeared in 94 games with 71 starts and recorded 348 tackles (231 solos) and 33.5 tackles for a loss of 200.5 yards.
- Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel was born on Aug. 14, 1975 in Akron, Ohio, and received USA Today All-American second-team honors at Walsh Jesuit High in Stowe, Ohio. While in high school, Vrabel earned Ohio Player of the Year honors from Columbus Touchdown Club.
- Patriots punter Ken Walter was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on Aug. 15, 1972, and played high school football at Euclid High. Walter served as a ball boy for Cleveland from 1992-95, honing his punting skills while working training camps with the Browns.
- Browns defensive line coach Andre Patterson began his NFL coaching career with the Patriots in 1997 as a defensive coaching assistant.
- Browns special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg was the cornerbacks/special teams coach at the University of Notre Dame for two seasons (1999-2000). In 2000, Patriots wide receiver David Givens blocked three kicks on the Fighting Irish's punt coverage unit as a sophomore.
- Browns quarterbacks coach Carl Smith spent three seasons with the Patriots— 1997, assistant head coach/quarterbacks coach; 1998-99, tight ends coach.
- Browns kicker Phil Dawson spent the 1998 season on the Patriots' practice squad.
- Browns rookie defensive lineman Antonio Garay played his collegiate ball at Boston College, along with Patriots center Dan Koppen. Browns Paul Zukauskas and William Green and the Patriots' Damien Woody also played at BC.
- Browns running back William Green played 31 games at Boston College and ranks second in school history with 33 touchdowns, third with 2,974 yards rushing and sixth with 501 rushing attempts.
- Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri and Browns tight end Steve Heiden both played their collegiate football at South Dakota State.
- Browns defensive back Lewis Sanders resides in Staten Island, N.Y., the hometown of Patriots guard Joe Andruzzi.
- Andruzzi and Browns offensive lineman Barry Stokes spent the 1998 season allocated to NFL Europe's Scottish Claymores.
- Browns defensive lineman Mark Word's brother, Matt Word, played linebacker at Iowa State and spent 2003 training camp with the New England Patriots.
THIS WEEK IN PATRIOTS HISTORY
The Patriots have a 12-12 record in Week Eight since the 16-game schedule began in 1978. New England has played Cleveland in Week Eight once before, with the Browns taking a 19-17 decision at Foxboro Stadium on Oct. 25, 1992. Last season, the Patriots lost to Denver, 24-16 in Week Eight. Below are some memorable moments in Patriots history for the week of Oct. 20-26.
Oct. 20, 1996— The Patriots beat Indianapolis, 27-9, at the RCA Dome. It started a string of eight wins in their final 10 games as the Patriots made the playoffs and advanced to Super Bowl XXXI.
Oct. 21, 2001— David Patten scored three touchdowns — one rushing, one passing and one receiving — to lead the Patriots to a 38-17 win at Indianapolis. He became the first player since Walter Payton in 1979 to accomplish the touchdown trifecta. Patten's 91-yard touchdown reception from Tom Brady is the longest pass play in franchise history.
Oct. 22, 1961— Larry Garron tore off the longest run from scrimmage in team history, scampering 85 yards for a touchdown as the Boston Patriots won at Buffalo, 52-21. The Patriots' 52 points that day stand as the third highest total in team history.
Oct. 26, 1986— The Patriots beat the Bills on the road, 23-3. The game followed a 34-0 win at Pittsburgh, finishing a two-game road swing where the Patriots outscored their opponents 57-3.