FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — In a career filled with fourth-quarter comebacks, Tom Brady never saw anything like this.
He threw two touchdown passes in the last 61 seconds. The Cleveland Browns committed two key penalties in that stretch. And the New England Patriots recovered their first onside kick that led to the winning play in their history.
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Even Brady had to marvel at what his team accomplished in its 27-26 win Sunday.
“That was awesome,” he said.
It was Brady’s 41st win as a starter when the Patriots trailed or were tied in the fourth quarter. That’s about one-fourth of his 162 career victories and just eight fewer than his 49 losses since he became a starter in 2001.
“We’ve seen Tom do this so many times before,” New England coach Bill Belichick said. “I think it’s probably all been said before, but he did it again.”
The downside was that tight end Rob Gronkowski also got hurt again, leaving the game with a suspected torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the third quarter.
The Patriots (10-3) remained one game ahead of the Cincinnati Bengals in the race for the No. 2 spot, and a first-round playoff bye, in the AFC. They did it after trailing at halftime for the fourth straight game and fifth in their last six. They’ve won four of those comebacks but didn’t have to overcome a deficit in the last two minutes of the other three.
They did against the Browns (4-9).
“We held in there as long as we could (and) Tom Brady did his thing at the end,” Cleveland defensive end Ahtyba Rubin said.
Brady threw touchdown passes of 2 yards to Julian Edelman with 1:01 left and 1 yard to Danny Amendola with 31 seconds remaining after the Patriots trailed 26-14.
Then Cleveland’s Billy Cundiff missed a 58-yard field goal attempt on the final play.
“Everyone’s going to remember this one,” Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich said.
Five things to know about the Patriots latest comeback win:
GRONK’S GONE AGAIN: The Patriots star appears done for the season in which he’s played just seven games. He missed the first six while recovering from offseason back and forearm surgeries. He led all NFL tight ends in the next six games with 37 catches and 560 yards receiving but had just two catches for 32 yards Sunday.
Gronkowski was hurt when he was hit on the right knee by safety T.J. Ward after a 21-yard reception.
“If I would have hit him up high, there’s a chance I would get fined and all that other stuff,” Ward said. “It’s kind of being caught between a rock and a hard place.”
ONSIDE SUCCESS: The last time the Patriots recovered an onside kick was in an AFC playoff game on Jan. 1, 1995. That was against the original Browns, who moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens. Cleveland’s coach then? Bill Belichick. The result? A 20-13 Browns win.
On Sunday, Kyle Arrington recovered Stephen Gostkowski’s kick at the Browns 40 after it hit Cleveland’s Fozzy Whitaker.
“I’ve been practicing onside kicks for so long and I’ve probably only done like four to five in a game, even going back to high school,” Gostkowski said. “I’ve never been that jacked up after a game.”
BROWNS PENALTIES: Two penalties in the final 61 seconds hurt Cleveland. The first was an unnecessary roughness call against Jordan Poyer for hitting Edelman on his touchdown. The 15 yards were assessed on the kickoff on which Arrington recovered the ball.
“Any time the referee sees a defender go high (he is) going to throw the flag,” Poyer said.
The other penalty was pass interference against Leon McFadden in the end zone that moved the ball from the Browns 30 to the 1. Amendola scored the final touchdown on the next play.
Chudzinski and McFadden disagreed with the call.
GREAT GORDON: Josh Gordon caught seven passes for 151 yards, his fourth straight game with at least 125. The Browns lost all four. He also scored on an 80-yard pass play, his third touchdown of at least 74 yards in four games.
Gordon set an NFL record of 774 yards receiving in four consecutive games. Calvin Johnson set the previous mark of 746 this season. Gordon also set a single-season team record for yards receiving with 1,400. Braylon Edwards established the previous mark of 1,289 in 2007.
CUTTING IT CLOSE: Brady completed 32 of 52 passes for 418 yards, the second game this season and the sixth in his career that he surpassed 400. But he knows the Patriots’ penchant for cutting it close may hurt them.
“We’re not trying to give (opponents) those leads and, certainly, our execution wasn’t great, but we came through when we needed to,” he said.”