He’s back. After serving out his four-game suspension for, well, you know already, Tom Brady will take the field for the first time this season in Cleveland against a struggling Browns team on Sunday afternoon. Even without their starter, and in two games without their backup quarterback, the New England Patriots went 3-1 to lead the AFC East. That path is likely to continue against the Browns.
In Brady’s absence, the Patriots’ offense has dominated largely because of its ability to advance the ball on the ground. Led by LeGarrette Blount, Pats rushers are producing the league’s third-most yards per week at 136. Blount has the league’s third-most yardage at 352 and has scored four of New England’s five rushing touchdowns. That’s more than 19 teams have scored this season.
Things have been different on the receiving end though. Martellus Bennett is the lone Patriot to eclipse 200 receiving yards and the unit as a whole has only caught four touchdowns. Julian Edelman has just 196 yards and no touchdowns in four games, a year after posting 497 and three touchdowns in the same time span. Rob Gronkowski has just one catch for 11 yards after missing the first two games of the season with a hamstring injury — he’s been hearing all about it from fans who drafted him to their fantasy team. Gronk has said his injury has been getting better each week, and "hopefully this week it’s go time." This already really good Patriots team isn’t close to its peak yet and nonetheless the Pats have still rolled.
The Browns are doing normal Browns things as they’ve played four different players at quarterback entering Week 5. Robert Griffin IIII, the team’s opening day starter, went down with a shoulder injury in Week 1 that could keep him out for the season. Josh McCown went down in Week 2 also with a shoulder injury. Ever since, Cody Kessler has assumed the starting role, with Terrelle Pryor making a few cameo appearance. To no surprise, the Browns have generated the seventh-fewest passing yards per game totals to accompany a league-worst three touchdowns.
Things have gone well running the ball, however, behind Isaiah Crowell, who has pushed Cleveland to the top in rushing yards per game at 149.3. Crowell is the league’s second-leading rusher at 394 yards and by far the league’s best rate at 6.5 per carry. He also has three touchdowns and hasn’t fumbled. He’ll be a focal point of the Patriots’ defense, which ranks in the top half of rushing yards allowed.
Looking at the history, Tom Brady has only lost one start against the Cleveland Browns before, winning his last in dramatic fashion. In Dec. of 2013, overcoming a 16-point deficit, Brady drove the field on the game’s final drive to hit Danny Amendola for a 1-yard touchdown with 31 seconds remaining for a 27-26 win. He finished the game with 418 yards and two touchdowns. Wouldn’t it be something if that happened all over again under these circumstances.
How to watch
Time: 1 p.m. ET
Place: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio
Announcers: Thom Brennaman, Charles Davis, Chris Spielman, Peter Schrager
Online: Sunday Ticket