Picked-up pieces from 4th quarter review

December, 10, 2013
12/10/13
12:45
AM ET
Picked-up pieces from fourth-quarter review of the New England Patriots' 27-26 win over the Cleveland Browns:

1. The Patriots increased their usage of the four-receiver package after Rob Gronkowski left the game with a knee injury, and they used it for 15 snaps in the fourth quarter, the majority coming in the final two drives when they were in hurry-up. That brought Austin Collie on to the field as a fourth receiver. Collie had only played two snaps before the final three drives of the game when he was on for 13. That made the performance similar to his work against the Saints on Oct. 13 when he was more of a factor late.

2. Can't say enough about the back-to-back fourth-quarter performances of kicker Stephen Gostkowski the last two weeks -- field goals from 53, 53, 50 and a successful “middle bunt” onside kick to help produce an improbable victory.

3. On Josh Gordon's 34-yard end-around (5:07 remaining), a handful of Patriots defenders pulled up as they got close to Gordon, perhaps thinking he would go out of bounds. It was unusual to see linebackers Jamie Collins and Brandon Spikes, among others, to be playing so tentative at such a critical time in the game.

4. Credit linebacker Dont'a Hightower with an assist for producing the intentional grounding penalty on Jason Campbell (4:12 remaining) as he rocked running back Fozzy Whittaker to the ground within the legal 5-yard zone; that was where Campbell wanted to go with the football. While it was a questionable penalty, the play highlighted from this viewpoint why Hightower was more of a factor than he has been in recent weeks.

5. Perhaps tentative to blitz because they were burned on Gordon's 80-yard touchdown in the third quarter, the Patriots sent just the standard four rushers (Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones, Andre Carter, Joe Vellano) on third-and-17 with 4:06 remaining. The Browns offensive line kept an extremely clean pocket and Campbell had plenty of time to step into a 19-yard low strike to Gordon (Aqib Talib in coverage). The lack of pressure hurt the Patriots at various points in the game, perhaps none more than that play.

6. On the Patriots touchdown drive to slice the deficit to 26-21, completions to Julian Edelman of 23 and 19 yards gave the march a similar feel to the game-winning drive against the Saints on Oct. 13.

7. Count me among the crowd who didn't see enough to call pass interference on cornerback Leon McFadden on the Patriots' game-winning drive, giving them the ball at the 1. Not enough contact there from this viewpoint to make that call.

8. Total time of game: 3 hours, 41 minutes. That's the team's longest non-overtime game of the season, as only four of 13 contests have been three hours or less.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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