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Replay: Patriots Postgame Show Sun Nov 29 - 06:00 PM | Mon Nov 30 - 09:00 AM

Things get ugly in Cleveland

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            Cleveland – The Patriots dropped their eighth loss of the season against two wins as the Cleveland Browns watched its opponent self destruct on the way to a 19-11 loss.  

At 2-7, the main focus of this game was whether or not Drew Bledsoe would start. In Week 10, Bledsoe had his thumb injured against the Buffalo Bills and his status was uncertain leading up to the game. Bledsoe did start but turnovers rendered the point moot as it would not have mattered who was taking the snaps on this day.

To make matters worse, New England's defense played without injured Willie McGinest and Ted Johnson.

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            But true to form, as bad as things looked, New England managed to make things interesting down the stretch.  

Trailing 19-3 in the fourth, New England took the ball with a little over eight minutes left and drove from their own 27 with an assortment of swing passes to Kevin Faulk – five in all. A six-yard Bledsoe run got the ball down to the Cleveland 2. Then, Bledsoe found a wide open Rod Rutledge in the back of the end zone for the Patriots first touchdown of the game.

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            With the spread now 10 at 19-9, New England went for the two-point conversion. Faulk took the handoff and dove in behind the right guard to put his team behind by a touchdown and another conversion.  

The Browns could not move the ball on their next possession and New England took over with 3:49 left on their own 37. But a third and 3 sack by Lenoy Jones and Stalin Colinet destroyed any hope of scoring on that drive and the Patriots were forced to punt.

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            With time running out, once again the Patriots defense needed a quick turnaround but Cleveland managed to make first down after first down and the game ended on a Doug Pederson knee.  

Both offenses stalled to begin the game until the Browns scored three points on a Phil Dawson 39-yard field goal to go up 3-0 in the first quarter. Henry Thomas helped the Cleveland drive by being caught calling out the count before the snap. That's unsportsmanlike conduct in the NFL and the 15 yards moved the Browns into New England territory.

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            The Patriots took the ball back and looked like they would go three and out for the third consecutive drive. But on third and 10, Bledsoe, under pressure, found Kevin Faulk on a little screen pass and Faulk went 18 yards. From the Cleveland 47, J.R. Redmond rumbled 20 yards (Redmond later left the game with a bruised chest). New England settled for a Vinatieri 38-yard field goal and the game was tied at 3.  

The game's first touchdown came after Cleveland's Darius Holland reached up and snatched a third and 4 pass from Bledsoe for the interception. The Browns then went 41 yards on 7 plays to go up 10-3. A huge penalty on Bobby Hamilton (hands to the face) negated a Patriots sack that changed a Browns third and 20 from the New England 40 scenario to a first and 10 on the 29. On second a 7 from the 9, Doug Pederson hit tight end Aaron Shea who shrugged off a Lawyer Milloy attempted tackle and scored.

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            Cleveland capped off the first half scoring with a 43-yard field goal and headed into the locker room with a 13-3 lead. Turnovers again led to this score. This time it was Bledsoe fumbling the snap and Cleveland's Colinet recovering. Travis Prentice did most of the work once the Browns had the ball, catching four passes along with a 13-yard run.  

New England had a chance to strike first in the second half when they moved the ball from their own 36 to the Browns 6. But Kevin Faulk mishandled a Bledsoe pitch for New England's third turnover on the day.

Cleveland failed to take advantage on the ensuing possession, but after stopping the Patriots three and out, they came back with a 35-yard field goal to go up 16-3. Penalties cost the Patriots valuable field position as they were flagged twice trying to punt (ineligible man downfield and holding). Instead of Cleveland setting up from its own 28 as a result of the first punt, two punts later had them starting from the New England 36.

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            Things got a lot worse when Bledsoe was sacked and then fumbled on the very next Patriots play from scrimmage. Defensive sparkplug Colinet blindsided Bledsoe and the ball squirted loose and Marcus Spriggs recovered. The Browns tacked on another three points off a 35-yard field goal and a 19-3 lead.  

New England closed the gap as mentioned above but on this day when Doug Pederson looked like Otto Graham and the Patriots looked like the (insert losing season year here) edition of the hometown team, the game was never close. On the day, the injured Bledsoe finished with 212 yards passing on 35 attempts and 21 completions. New England had 102 yards on the ground but gave up 139 to the Browns. The key to the game was the four New England turnovers.

New England comes home to face the Cincinnati Bengals next Sunday.

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