A bizarro effort for Patriots in 34-14 loss at Cleveland

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A bizarro effort for Patriots in 34-14 loss at Cleveland

By Art Martone
CSNNE.com

Ladies and gentlemen, may we present the Bizarro Patriots.

All the accepted truths of the New England Patriots were turned on their head by the Bizarro Pats in their ghastly 34-14 loss to the Browns in Cleveland on Sunday.

You know how the Patriots never beat themselves? How about Rob Gronkowski and Sammy Morris letting a kickoff drop between them -- Gronkowski called for a fair catch and then backed off -- which led to a) Cleveland recovering the ball on the Pats' 19-yard line and b) scoring a touchdown two plays later? Or Gronkowski fumbling away the ball on the Browns' 2-yard line in the final seconds of the first half when the Pats were driving for a touchdown that would have cut their deficit to three points?

You know how the Patriots chew up and spit out rookie quarterbacks with their baffling combinations of hidden coverages and surprise formations? How about Colt McCoy shredding the Pats' defense as he were playing Florida Atlantic, completing 14 of 19 passes for 174 yards and scrambling for 20 more, including a touchdown?

You know how the Patriots have owned the second half of games this year? How about giving up the first 10 points of the last two quarters, turning a 17-7 game into a 27-7 game and ending any hopes of a New England comeback?

And that's just the top of it. Throw in a raft of dropped passes -- Gronkowski and Brandon Tate were particularly butter-fingered -- the Pats' inability to stop Cleveland's bowling-ball fullback, Peyton Hills (29 carries, 184 yards), a worse-than-the-stats-make-it-look performance by Tom Brady (19-of-36, 224 yards, 2 TDs), and you had a road disaster indisguishable from many of the Patriots' away-from-Gillette efforts of 2009 . . . except that, unlike '09, they didn't give it up at the end. This one started early.

How early? Try a 21-yard pass from McCoy to Mohamed Massaquoi on the game's first play, followed by a setting-the-tone 18-yard run from Hillis that had the Browns on the New England 24. The drive stalled and the Browns had to settle for a 38-yard field goal by Phil Dawson and a 3-0 lead.

But any momentum the Pats may have garnered from that stop was gone in the time it took for Gronkowski and Morris to mess up the ensuing kickoff and for the Browns to recover on the New England 19. A 17-yard pass from McCoy to Evan Moore moved it to the 2, and Hillis scored on the next play for a 10-0 lead.

The Patriots were held to 21 offensive yards in the first quarter, but came alive with an 11-play, 79-yard drive that was capped by a one-yard, Brady-to-Aaron Hernandez pass that made it 10-7 in the second. The Browns, however, responded with a 60-yard scoring drive of their own, going ahead 17-7 on an 11-yard run off the wildcat by Chansi Stuckey.

The Pats' last chance to get back in the game ended when Gronkowski had the ball stripped out of his hands on the Cleveland 2 with 20 seconds left in the half, ending a long drive that, had it ended in a touchdown, would have cut Cleveland's lead to 17-14. Instead the half ended 17-7, the Pats had to punt on their first possession of the third quarter, and McCoy put it away by engineering a 72-yard drive that he capped with a 12-yard scramble for a touchdwn that made it 24-7.

The teams then traded touchdowns, with the Pats scoring on a two-yard Brady-to-Hernandez pass and the Browns on a 35-yard run by Hillis.

The good news for the Patriots? Well, the Jets were losing for most of the day, so it looked as New England might have been able to maintain its one-game lead in the AFC East. But even that fell through, as New York rallied, tied the game on a field goal on the last play of regulation, and won it on a field goal in overtime. So New York and New England are tied again . . . and, since the Jets a) beat the Patriots head-to-head and b) have only one conference loss to the Pats' two, New York has several tie-breaking edges, as well.

The bad news? Everything else.

Bizarro indeed.

Art Martone can be reached at amartone@comcastsportsnet.com.

Clayborn beats out Seymour, Vrabel to enter Patriots Hall of Fame

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Clayborn beats out Seymour, Vrabel to enter Patriots Hall of Fame

Raymond Clayborn has been voted into the Patriots Hall of Fame, beating out both Mike Vrabel and Richard Seymour for the honor. The corner, who is tied for the franchise record for interceptions with Ty Law (36), will be the 26th person inducted to the Hall. 

Clayborn was a three-time Pro Bowler (1983, 1985, 1986) during his 13-year Patriots career from 1977 through 1989. He was drafted by the Patriots in the first round (16th overall) out of Texas in 1977, and chipped in both in the secondary and as a kick returner. As a rookie in the return game, he averaged 31 yards per return and brought back three for touchdowns. 

Clayborn reacted to the news on Twitter soon after the announcement was made. 

"I was fortunate to be a season ticket holder during Raymond's entire Patriots career," Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft said in a statement. "For the first half of his career, he teamed with Michael Haynes to form one of the best corner tandems in league history. Throughout his career, Raymond was a physical, shutdown corner.

"One of my favorite memories was watching the 1985 team advance to the Super Bowl after Raymond helped us break the Orange Bowl curse when he stymied future Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino with a dominant performance against Pro Bowl receivers Mark Duper and Mark Clayton. Raymond had six passes defensed and an interception to help us claim our first conference title. It was the greatest upset victory in franchise history at the time and one the entire New England region celebrated. It is a well-deserved honor and I look forward to presenting him his hall of fame jacket."

Clayborn has been a finalist for each of the last four years but was not able to generate enough support in the annual online vote to beat out Ty Law (2014 inductee), Willie McGinest (2015) or Kevin Faulk (2016). Clayborn was eligible to be voted in by the senior committee since he's now been retired for 25 years, but he did not receive the requisite eight of 10 senior committee votes to be elected in that way. 

As it turns out, he didn't need to be. When Kraft called Clayborn with the news, he said Clayborn received over 40 percent of the vote to beat out the pair of three-time Super Bowl champs. 

Kyle Shanahan: One play I regret in Falcons' collapse vs. Patriots

Kyle Shanahan: One play I regret in Falcons' collapse vs. Patriots


Remember that Atlanta Falcons offensive game plan against the Patriots in the final five minutes of the Super Bowl?

Kyle Shanahan, then the Falcons offensive coordinator and now coach of the San Francisco 49ers won't forget it. If Atlanta had simply run the ball and kicked a field goal with an eight-point lead, the Falcons would have likely held off Tom Brady and the Pats' comeback from a 28-3 third-quarter deficit.

Shanahan told The Rich Eisen Show there's one play call he'd like to have back. 

"The second-and-10 that we got sacked on,” Shanahan said. “I wish I had dialed up something differently. And then the next play, we called an option to [Mohamed] Sanu, we got right back in field goal range, but we had a holding call on the play and it knocked us out some more, and an incompletion on the next one.”

Click here for the play: Patriots defensive lineman Trey Flowers sacked Matt Ryan for a 12-yard loss. 

"I go through every single play in the game, but when it comes down to it, the big one was the sack that we had on second-and-10,” Shanahan told Eisen. 

Shanahan probably won't see the Patriots again this season, unless it's in the Super Bowl. And with the 49ers rebuilding under him, that's not likely to happen.