With fans chanting his name all afternoon, Tom Brady showed few signs of rust in his Week 5 return, leading the Patriots to a resounding 33-13 victory over the Cleveland Browns.
So that Tom Brady guy is pretty good.
Looking sharp in his first game back from a four-game suspension, Brady torched a Browns secondary that seemed to have few answers for the Patriots high-octane passing attack.
Any notions that a four-week layoff would have lingering effects on Brady’s play were very quickly put to rest, as he completed 18 of 25 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns before halftime, sending the Patriots into the locker room with a 23-7 lead.
It was Brady’s best first half performance since the Patriots routed the Tennessee Titans 59-0 in Week 6 of the 2009 season. He finished 28 of 40 for 406 yards and three touchdowns on the day before being relieved by Jimmy Garoppolo with 6:02 left in the fourth quarter.
It is the eighth 400-yard passing game of Brady’s career.
Sports personality Bill Simmons, a self-professed and vocal Patriots fan, shared his thoughts on the game with a photographic interpretation of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s reaction to Brady’s triumphant return.
Brady feasted on the long ball in the first half, hooking up with wide receiver Chris Hogan for strikes of 43 and 63 yards–both in the second quarter. Hogan hauled in four total receptions for 114 yards, leaving the game twice with apparent head injuries before returning in the fourth quarter.
Brady and Martellus Bennett showed remarkable chemistry all afternoon, with the two hooking up on a 37-yard pass that put Bennett in the end zone for a third time with 12:24 to go in the third quarter. Bennett would go on to finish the day with six catches for 67 yards along with his three touchdowns.
In more good news for the Patriots, tight end Rob Gronkowski looked the healthiest he’s been all year, putting in his best performance thus far with five catches for 109 yards.
The defense answered the bell as well, holding the top-rated Cleveland rushing attack in check for most of the day. Browns running back Isaiah Crowell was limited to just 22 yards on 13 carries for the afternoon.
Not everything was roses and rainbows for New England, however. The long-range kicking game once again proved a trouble spot, as kicker Stephen Gostkowski short-footed a 50-yard attempt wide right with 17 seconds left in the second quarter. It’s the third field goal outside of 40 yards Gostkowski has missed this season.
Another blemish on New England’s otherwise solid afternoon came in the third quarter when rookie cornerback Cyrus Jones was ejected after he got into a shoving match with Browns wideout Andrew Hawkins. Jones was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and booted from the game when he threw punches at Hawkins while he was on the ground.
It’s the second week in a row that Jones has made head-scratching blunders in the field.
Even with the uncharacteristic miscues, however, it was a good all-around day for a team that needed a serious pick-me-up after an embarrassing Week 4 loss at home to Buffalo. With the pomp and circumstance of Brady’s return now behind them, the Patriots now look ahead to next week’s showdown against a Bengals team that needs a win to remain in divisional contention.
Or as Bill Belichick would say, “We’re on to Cincinnati.”