FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots game plan for the postseason is pretty simple: fall behind in the first half, and figure it all out in the final 30 minutes. It's worked remarkably well over the past three games, so why not try it from here on out?
We've seen a lot of unlikely comebacks this season already, but this was right up there with the most unlikely, given the Patriots' performance throughout the first three quarters. As such, it's just about right that it took two touchdowns in the final 1:04 to give the Patriots a one-point win, when Browns kicker Billy Cundiff's last-second field goal try fell short.
The win wasn't the biggest news of the day, however; the Patriots watched star tight end Rob Gronkowski get carted off the field with a knee injury, putting a damper on the elation of the victory.
Here is a look at the players whose stock went up and others who have some work to do this week.
Stevan Ridley: The Patriots bell cow running back was back in the lineup today after being inactive against the Houston Texans. He took his eight carries for 35 yards (4.4 YPA) and ran hard in a rotational role.
Josh Boyce: Had three catches for 49 yards, including a long of 22 yards when he eluded several defenders on a short pass. With rookie receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins on the mend, Boyce could get a longer look as the season hits the home stretch.
Shane Vereen: The running back led all Patriots receivers with 12 receptions for 153 yards, including a long of 50 yards -- the Patriots biggest play from scrimmage of the day. Vereen continues to develop into a nice dual-threat, a matchup weapon that can be used all over the field.
Tom Brady: Came through when it mattered most -- Sunday marked Brady's fifth fourth-quarter comeback of the season, a career-high for him. He wasn't given the best protection, but Brady's early interception set the tone for the day, as the offense struggled to get anything going through the air in the first half -- Brady was 16-of-32 for 276 yards and a pick through three quarters.
Aqib Talib: Was victimized on an 80-yard touchdown catch by Browns receiver Josh Gordon, and was called for a pair of defensive holding penalties -- one of which was accepted.
Offensive line: Yielded four sacks of Brady on the day, as pass protection continues to be a struggle spot for the Patriots. Center Ryan Wendell was called for a hold in the first half.
Injuries: Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Jerod Mayo and now Gronkowski. The hits just keep coming, and now, the Patriots offense is back to where it was in the first six weeks of the season -- although sans Dobson and Thompkins, and plus Vereen.
The author is solely responsible for the content.