FOXBORO -- New England's 27-26 win over Cleveland marked the team's third dramatic comeback in as many weeks.
The Patriots were down 24-0 to Denver at halftime. They were down 17-7 to Houston at the break. They were down to the Browns for 59 minutes this weekend. All were won. Three consecutive victories scratched and clawed out of thin air.
Tom Brady took the podium with a smile after the Browns game.
"That was awesome," he said. "That was awesome. What a game. I’m just proud of the guys. We fought through a lot of adversity. A lot of mental toughness. We grinded it out, so it was pretty sweet."
Sweet in an I-can't-believe-we-pulled-that-off kind of way.
The day came down to an onside kick with 61 seconds left, which New England recovered at the Cleveland 40. (Note, it was the first Patriots onside kick recovery since 1995. Adds to the drama.) Brady completed a 10-yard pass on his first down. The second, a 29-yard attempt to rookie receiver Josh Boyce, fell incomplete. But a flag was thrown. Defensive pass interference.
Just like that, New England had only 1 more yard to gain and a luxurious 35 seconds in which to gain it.
"It was unbelievable," Brady grinned. "It was a great -- I came over to the sideline after we scored and Josh [McDaniels] said, ‘We’re going for the middle bunt.’ So I kind of stood up to get a good look and he kicked a perfect ball. That was awesome.
"You know, we work on that all the time and if it comes up once a year, great. If it works, I mean, it's incredible. We got the PI [pass interference] and then scored on the next play and that was incredible."
Yes, an incredible game. A third incredible game in three weeks. New England keeps getting knocked down, but refuses lay with its nose in the dirt.
The team is now 10-3 and ranked second in the AFC.
It has won without defensive starters Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, and Tommy Kelly. It's won without receiver Aaron Dobson and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer. It's won despite going eight weeks without running back Shane Vereen. And it's won despite going without star Rob Gronkowski for the first six weeks of the season, and maybe the final three and playoffs, as the tight end injured a knee against the Browns and was carted off the field.
"It hurts to see any of those guys go down, certainly with Gronk -- and we’ve sustained some pretty big injuries this year with really important, critical players," Brady said, "We’ve got to just keep bouncing back."
Much to the rest of the league's frustration.
"I always say no one feels sorry for the Patriots," Brady said. "I think we all feel sorry for Rob, but I don’t think anyone feels sorry for the Patriots."