FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots pulled out yet another come-from-behind win Sunday against the Browns, and all it took was an onside kick, a questionable defensive pass interference call, and a Danny Amendola touchdown — the Patriots’ second in 59 seconds — to get it done.
New England watched a potentially game-winning 58-yard Billy Cundiff field goal land short of the crossbar, then celebrated a 27-26 win, their 10th of the season.
The Patriots suffered a potentially significant loss earlier in the game: tight end Rob Gronkowski, who has been playing brilliantly since missing the first six weeks of the season as he rehabbed from multiple offseason surgeries, suffered what appeared to be a serious right knee injury in the third quarter.
Gronkowski hauled in a 21-yard catch on the left seam, and as he was running, safety T.J. Ward came in low and drilled Gronkowski in the side of the knee. The 6-foot-6-inch Pro Bowler crumpled to the Gillette Stadium turf, his right leg bent awkwardly.
He stayed down for several minutes before the cart was brought out to take him off the field; Patriots captain Matthew Slater was several feet behind Gronkowski while he was being tended to, on both knees as he prayed for his teammate.
After Gronkowski was loaded onto the back of the medical cart, Slater and a couple of his teammates as well as Ward and Browns defensive lineman Phil Taylor all approached Gronkowski before he was driven off.
The Browns were ahead just 6-0 at halftime, unable to take advantage of some good scoring opportunities, but the Patriots offense started with a three and out, followed with an interception, and then punted on its final three possessions of the first half.
It was the fourth straight game and fifth in their last six that New England went into the locker room on the down side of the scoreboard, though the Patriots continue to find ways to win.
New England’s first possession of the second half didn’t go much better: after an 11-yard completion from Tom Brady to Gronkowski, there was a holding penalty on center Ryan Wendell, Brady was sacked for an 8-yard loss by Jabaal Sheard, and a third-and-20 pass to Shane Vereen was a few yards short, leading to another punt.
The Browns scored on their first possession of the third quarter, but coach Rob Chudzinski opted to go for 2, hoping to make the score 14-0; however, back Chris Ogbonnaya was stuffed on the attempt. Chudzinski would need that point later in the game.
New England didn’t get on the board until less than two minutes remained in the third quarter, on a Stephen Gostkowski 33-yard field goal, and any gains made by that play were essentially negated just seconds later, an 80-yard Jason Campbell-to-Josh Gordon touchdown that put Cleveland ahead, 19-3.
But the Patriots answered right back, with a three-play, 72-yard touchdown drive with all three plays going to Vereen: a 50-yard catch-and-run, 16-yard red-zone catch, and then a 6-yard scoring run.
New England went for 2 and made it, with Brady passing to Julian Edelman.
That put the score at 19-11, setting up the fourth-quarter fireworks.