Sunday, December 8, 2013
Patriots' win left a lot to digest
By Field Yates
Two storylines -- an improbable come-from-behind win and news that tight end Rob Gronkowski may have torn his ACL -- dominated the headlines for the Patriots on Sunday, but there was plenty more to account for after the team’s 10th win.
Here's a look at the other storylines to emerge from the game:
Pats keep pace in playoff hunt. Although the Patriots did not clinch a playoff berth on Sunday (because both the Ravens and Dolphins won), they remain three games up in the division and still hold the AFC’s second-best record. They can clinch an AFC East crown with a win Sunday in Miami.
Stephen Gostkowski reacts after his onside kick put the Patriots in position for the winning score.
Ridley returns. Running back Stevan Ridley returned to the lineup on Sunday, recording eight carries, tied with LeGarrette Blount for most on the team. That’s a positive step for Ridley in his attempt to work back into a prominent running back role.
Vereen shines. Running back Shane Vereen had a record-setting day, establishing franchise bests for running backs with 12 catches and 153 receiving yards. He’s been a critical offensive cog since his return in Week 11.
Gostkowski helps out again. Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski came through in a big way again, drilling a 50-yard field goal and executing a strong onside kick late in the game to give his team the ball back and the chance to win. Said Danny Amendola of the onside kick, “It was fantastic. Those specialists work so hard on their craft and kicks, and I’m sure Gost was really excited about it. It was a big play -- play of the game.”
Gordon bothers secondary. A primary concern for the Patriots' secondary coming into the game was Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon. Gordon shined again, besting Aqib Talib in man coverage for an 80-yard score and finishing with 151 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Late flag comes into focus. Browns cornerback Leon McFadden was flagged for pass interference late in the game, a call that gave the Patriots the ball at Cleveland’s 1-yard line. McFadden didn’t appear to make much contact on the play, saying after the game, “I didn’t feel like there was pass interference, but all I can do is go back and look at the film and make corrections.”
Siliga for Sopoaga. The Patriots made something of a personnel shift on defense, with second-year defensive tackle Sealver Siliga playing over veteran Isaac Sopoaga. Sopoaga didn’t enter the game until the fourth quarter, playing minimal snaps. Siliga notched six tackles in total.
Brady (quietly?) goes over 400 yards. If such a thing as a quiet 400-yard passing performance exists, Tom Brady accomplished it on Sunday. Brady threw for 418 yards, his second-highest total of the season. He added two touchdown passes, upping his total to 21 for the season.
Belichick extends record streak. Patriots coach Bill Belichick has led his team to 11 straight seasons with 10 or more wins, extending his own NFL record. The Patriots also improved to 41-6 in December since 2001, best in the NFL.