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.

Curran: McDaniels staying with Pats shouldn't be a shocker

Curran: McDaniels staying with Pats shouldn't be a shocker

For weeks the speculation regarding Josh McDaniels wasn't a matter of "if" but "when."

But while national media had McDaniels signed, sealed and delivered to multiple landing spots, the proposition that he'd leave at all was never a likelihood. 

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The Rams weren't attractive to him from the outset. Jacksonville didn't excite him, either. And on Monday, he passed on the 49ers opportunity. 

The lure of a blank slate in San Fran at quarterback and GM didn't outpace the uncertainty of going cross-country to work for a seemingly dysfunctional franchise that's cycled rapidly through coaches and has an unrealistic sense that it's a long, long way removed from its glory days, the only remnant remaining from that being perhaps the logo on the helmet. 

With four kids and a job McDaniels considers one of the 10 best on coaching -- head man or no -- he will stay on as the Patriots' offensive coordinator.

"I was really impressed with (Niners owner) Jed York and (team executive) Paraag Marathe . . . and the people that came from the 49ers organization," McDaniels said on a conference call this morning. "They did a great job with their presentation. Humbled to be included in that process. At this time it's just best for my family and myself to remain here in New England and focus on this year's playoffs and finish out the year however it turns out."

The same faulty speculative reasoning that had McDaniels as good as gone from the Patriots will move on undeterred today and surmise that McDaniels is staying with the Patriots because he knows, or has been promised, that he'll receive the head coaching job when Bill Belichick steps aside. 

While the Kraft family certainly thinks highly of McDaniels and that could come to pass, anyone tapping their foot and checking their watch waiting for Belichick to step down is in for a long wait. He's showing no signs of wrapping it up and, while I haven't been told directly McDaniels isn't the automatic successor, he wouldn't be taking interviews at all if he were assured that. 

What will be interesting to see is whether interest remains high in him for other jobs or the perception that he's never going to leave means teams don't bother to ask. San Fran obviously had its heart set on McDaniels. Even though Nick Caserio passed on the chance to interview with the Niners for their open GM job, the team did talk to Louis Riddick about the spot. He and McDaniels have high regard for each other. 

Between McDaniels, Caserio and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, the people closest to Belichick on the coaching flow chart all had chances to go somewhere else and all passed on the chance. It's another example of not why the Patriots are good but why they remain good. Stability. 
 

McDaniels: 'Best for my family and myself' to remain with Patriots

McDaniels: 'Best for my family and myself' to remain with Patriots

Josh McDaniels will be staying put in New England, he said on Monday, because that's what's best for him and his family at this point in time. 

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The Patriots offensive coordinator was a front-runner for the open head-coaching job in San Francisco but has removed his name from consideration.

"I was really impressed with [Niners owner and CEO] Jed York and [Chief Strategy Officer and EVP of Football Operations] Praag [Marathe] and [Director of Football Administration and Analytics] Brian [Hampton] and the people that came from the 49ers organization. They did a great job with their presentation. Again, humbled to be included in that process.

"At this time it's just best for my family and myself to remain here in New England and focus on this year's playoffs and finish out the year however it turns out."

Next season will be McDaniels' sixth full season back with the Patriots since returning during the playoffs of the 2011 season.

"I've always said how grateful I am to have this opportunity to work here with Mr. Kraft and his family, and coach under Bill with a lot of great guys on our staff, and to have the privilege to get to work with the players that we work with each day," McDaniels said. "It's a great opportunity. I'm very thankful to be here, and very much looking forward to this week against Pittsburgh."