Here's a recap of the key plays in the Patriots' 27-26 victory Sunday over the Cleveland Browns at Gillete Stadium.FULL ENTRY
FOXBOROUGH -- Cleveland Browns safety T.J. Ward, whose crushing hit on the Patriots' Rob Gronkowski that took the tight end out of the game, said he made a conscious decision on where to target him because he was concerned about the possibility of being fined.
"I think they ran a seam route and I closed on the pass," Ward said. "It was a decision I made, and just to make a tackle on a big man. Unfortunately, he got hurt, but if I would have hit him up high, there’s a chance that I would get fined and all that other stuff, so I’m just being safe."
It's not an easy decision, Ward said. The sheer size of Gronkowski (listed at 6-6, 265 pounds) has a player like him re-think how to attempt to take player like him down.
"It’s kind of being caught between a rock and a hard place," he said. "It’s a decision you have to make, but you have to follow the rules at the same time. Gronk's a big dude, he’s not small by any means, so already, he has that height where it just makes it difficult. I made a tackle. Unfortunately, he got hurt, but if he would have got up, it would have been no discussion about this right now."
Ward did attempt to speak to the Patriots tight end as he was being carted off the field. He was reportedly taken to the hospital after the game.
"My intention is never to hurt anyone," Ward said. "That’s not what this game is about. That’s not how I play. I hate to see guys go down with any type of injury. I just wanted him to know, whether he accepted it or not, it wasn’t an intentional hit to injure him, but we have to play this game. We have to play it the way that they force us to, and unfortunately, it incurred an injury for him."
Ward didn't say whether Gronkowski responded.
"You know, he’s in a tough spot, you know? I wouldn’t expect him to just be accepting, you know, but I had to send that message regardless. I hope he heals right. I don’t know what happened, but I hope everything is okay with him, and he has a good recovery, but I gotta play football, man. I gotta play football."
FOXBOROUGH -- Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw two touchdowns within a span of two minutes, to lead his team to a 27-26 win over the Cleveland Browns Sunday.
And he couldn't have been more proud of the outcome, having his offense shut out in the first half of Sunday's game and overcoming a 12-point deficit in the third quarter to finish for the victory.
"That was awesome, " said Brady, who finished with 418 receiving yards on 32 of 52 passing. "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."FULL ENTRY
For a long while Sunday it looked like the game ball survey would not be necessary this week, but once again the resilient Patriots found a way to win.
Cast your votes for which player's efforts to make the win happen merit a game ball.
Steven Senne/Associated Press
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was taken off the field on a cart after suffering an apparent knee injury in the Patriots' game Sunday vs. the Cleveland Browns.
The team announced during the game Gronkowski has a leg injury and would not return. According to a report from Fox Sports' Mike Garafolo after the game, Gronkowski has a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee and will have an MRI test on Monday.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said in his postgame news conference Gronkowski was taken to a hospital for observation but had no other details about the nature or extent of the injury.
Gronkowski was upended by Browns defensive back T.J. Ward after he caught a 21-yard pass in the third quarter from Tom Brady. Gronkowski reached over his head to make the catch, and flipped in the air after being hit near the 34 yard line by Ward, who appeared to hit him near the right knee.
Gronkowski had difficulty standing, and had to be helped onto a cart to be taken to the locker room for treatment. Ward and Belichick were among the many on field field who came over to Gronkowski to say something to him as he was taken off.
The Patriots rallied for a 27-26 victory.
"I don't know what the circumstances are, but we’re all there with him. We love him and he's a big part of this team. We’ll see where he’s at," Brady said.
FOXBOROUGH -- The Patriots will have to do without both of their top outside wide receivers, Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson, after listing Thompkins inactive with a hip injury.
Dobson (foot) has been out since Week 11 against the Carolina Panthers.
Patriots running back Stevan Ridley, who was inactive last week against the Houston Texans, is officially active for Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns. Also active for the Patriots is cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who had missed practice this week to go to court in Nebraska. He had missed two of the past three games with a knee injury.
Running back Brandon Bolden (knee) will be out of commission for the team as well.
The other Patriots inactives are OT Marcus Cannon (ankle), TE Michael Hoomanawanui (knee), and LB Steve Beauharnais.
The Browns' inactives are quarterbacks Brandon Weeden and Alex Tanney, offensive linemen Martin Wallace, Garrett Gilkey and Reid Fragel, tight end Keavon Milton, and receiver Josh Cooper.
FOXBOROUGH – So is it or isn't it a trap game?
The Patriots (9-3) host the Browns (4-8) with playoff implications on the line -- for the Patriots, of course -- and a game atmosphere reminiscent of a Week 4 preseason matchup.
The health and status of the team's players afterward may be the only outcome that will actually matter.
So whether or not the Patriots play up -- or down -- to the Browns is quite possibly irrelevant in the grand scheme of the season. But given this team's attitude toward preparation and Bill Belichick's emphasis on mental resilience, we can expect a full throttle effort Sunday.
Here's what we'll be watching in today's game:
1. Stevan Ridley -- Stevan Ridley is active and will play today's game. So now that we know that, what we'll be watching for is how many touches the talented but fumble-prone running back gets Sunday.
2. Josh Gordon -- The Cleveland wide receiver has had a couple of epic performances this season, including his 10 receptions for 261 yards and two touchdowns last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars. More than likely, he'll get to face Patriots corner Aqib Talib, who has had his fair share of matchups with the league's elite wide receivers and has won more battles than he has lost. Hopefully, there will be fireworks.
3. Dolphins-Steelers and Ravens-Vikings -- Because of the playoff implications, we're going to keep a side screen up and follow updates in the Miami Dolphins game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. If the Dolphins lose or tie against the Steelers, the Patriots will clinch the AFC East with win today. The Patriots can also clinch a playoff spot if the Baltimore Ravens lose or tie against the Minnesota Vikings. In the latter scenario, a fifth straight AFC East title would have to wait.
4. How will Jason Campbell look? -- The Browns quarterback is 0-2 all-time against the Patriots, and despite some down years in Oakland, has always been a solid player. Against the Patriots in those two games, he was 46 of 75 passing for 541 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions. He has the ability to make quality throws around the field and with the Patriots secondary nicked up, he has an opportunity to shine once again.
5. The Patriots run defense -- The team's run defense has been atrocious, partly because recent opponents have dictated a more passing centric defensive scheme. But when you're 31st overall in yards allowed per game (138.2), it's time to start putting the breaks on an obvious weakness. Today, we'll see if the Patriots are interested in this particular area of improvement against a Browns team that manages only 82.3 yards on the ground per game.
FOXBOROUGH – The Patriots can clinch the AFC East today with a win against the Cleveland Browns and a little help.
For the Patriots to take their fifth straight division title, they need a Miami Dolphins loss or tie against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Patriots can clinch a playoff spot with a Baltimore Ravens loss or tie against the Minnesota Vikings.FULL ENTRY
We're tardy but not late.Here are this week's NFL picks. As always, picks are against the spread.FULL ENTRY
FOXBOROUGH -- Appearing in a Nebraska courtroom for the second time in two days, Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard pleaded no contest Friday to refusing a chemical test, with prosecutors dropping charges of driving under the influence, according to the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star.
The newspaper reported that Dennard had his driver's license revoked for 60 days, was fined $500, and was given probation to run concurrent with an earlier conviction for felony assault, which was modified Thursday.FULL ENTRY
FOXBOROUGH -- Ten Patriots have been designated as questionable for Sunday's game against the Browns -- including five players in the defensive secondary -- and wide receiver Aaron Dobson and offensive lineman Marcus Cannon have been declared out.
Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who has missed practice each of the past two days while tending to legal matters in Nebraska, is listed as questionable with a knee injury.FULL ENTRY
FOXBOROUGH -- Now with three practices under his belt after re-signing with the Patriots Wednesday, receiver Austin Collie said he's healthy and thrilled to be back with the team.
"I was crossing my fingers, because I love it here. It’s a great team, great organization, great coaching staff," Collie said Friday, after the team's final practice of the week before facing Cleveland Sunday at Gillette Stadium. "It's awesome."FULL ENTRY
FOXBOROUGH -- Fridays in Foxborough can bring a wide range of topics at a Bill Belichick press conference, because many of the specific game angles for that week's opponent -- in this case, the Cleveland Browns -- have already been discussed and dissected at length.
So Belichick responded to a number of questions. Here were a few exchanges.FULL ENTRY
FOXBOROUGH -- Running back Brandon Bolden joined three others who were not spotted at Patriots practice on Friday, which is being held on the lower grass field behind Gillette Stadium as a light drizzle falls.
Bolden hasn't been on the injury report this week, but has spent time on it earlier this season with a knee injury.
The other three absences were expected. Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard has a court date on Friday in Nebraska, while offensive lineman Marcus Cannon (ankle) and receiver Aaron Dobson (foot) are dealing with injuries and haven't practiced all week.
FOXBOROUGH -- Linebacker Brandon Spikes returned to Patriots practice Thursday, and was listed as limited with a knee injury. He had missed Wednesday's workout because of a non-injury-related reason.
Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard missed practice because he was attending to a legal matter in a Nebraska courtroom. Only two Patriots were absent because of injury: offensive lineman Marcus Cannon (ankle) and wide receiver Aaron Dobson (foot).
According to the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star, which had a reporter in the courtroom, Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard had his probation modified Thursday, but the 30 days added to his jail sentence won't change the date on which he's scheduled to begin serving the time, which is after the football season.
FOXBOROUGH -- Shane Vereen said after practice Thursday that he still supports and has confidence in fellow running back Stevan Ridley, who sat out last Sunday's win at Houston after losing fumbles in each of the Patriots' three previous games.
FOXBOROUGH -- Eight days after being signed and three days after he made his Patriots debut, tight end D.J. Williams was waived by the club, according to the NFL transactions wire.
Williams played a limited number of snaps against the Texans and did not have a pass thrown his way. He spoke to the media after Wednesday's practice, with no hint that his time with the team was about to end.
Another tight end, Michael Hoomanawanui, was back at practice, giving the Patriots four tight ends on the field, along with Rob Gronkowski and Matt Mulligan. According to the team's depth chart, Williams was fourth among that group.FULL ENTRY