The Patriots dominated the Browns from kickoff to count down in a 33-13 Week 5 win to improve to 4-1. Here are three things we learned:
1. Tom Brady is still good.
Well, not too much surprise to this one, even considering that Brady returned to action with a 406-yard passing effort — the eighth 400-yard game of his career — including three touchdown passes. But if there were any lingering concern that Brady might be a bit rusty after four weeks on the sidelines, the Patriots quarterback put those qualms to rest right out of the gate on Sunday. Brady completed 10 of his first 12 passes in the first quarter (and the incomplete passes were both drops by James White and Julian Edelman) for 137 yards and a touchdown. By the time the first half finished, Brady already had a pair of touchdowns and 271 yards. Likewise, if you were worried that he might not find instant chemistry on the field with guys like tight end Martellus Bennett and wide receiver Chris Hogan, well, forget that. Brady found Bennett for all three of his touchdown passes, and helped further expose the speedy Hogan as the team’s primary deep threat, finding him for impressive gains of 43 yards and 63 yards. (Hogan also left the game with team medical personnel in late in the third quarter, after possibly suffering a concussion, a development to watch in coming weeks.) In all, Brady got seven different targets involved in the game and completed 28 of his 40 passes. Not that we ever, ever, ever (ever) need another Deflategate controversy, but maybe Brady should take a four-week vacation every year if this is going to be the result.
2. More than just Gronk now.
Not a bad way for Brady to get both tight ends involved in Sunday’s win, finding Bennett and Gronkowski a combined 11 times for 176 yards. Bennett’s day began with a scare when he limped off the field in the first quarter after what appeared to be an injury to his right knee, but that turned out to be a temporary fright. Brady ended up finding him three times in the end zone for the first three-touchdown game of the tight end’s career. In fact, the third time Brady found him, on a 37-yard touchdown pass, the quarterback also had a nearby Gronkowski wide open on the play at the 20-yard-line. But Brady elected to go with the new guy, paying off with the score. Not that it was another bust of a day for Gronkowski. Far from it. Gronkowski finally got involved in this one, hailing in five catches for 109 yards, including an impressive 37-yard pickup in the first quarter during which he shook off a number of Browns defenders. The hamstring appears to be just fine. So does his new partner in crime at tight end.
3. What in the wide, wide world is wrong with Gostkowski?
On the bright side, the Patriots kicker made all four of his extra-point attempts on Sunday. But the theory that his pivotal, missed kick in last January’s AFC Championship game is lingering in his mojo might be proving accurate. Gostkowski missed his third field goal of the season against Cleveland, shanking a 50-yard bid wide left near the end of the first half. After making a 30-yard attempt in the fourth quarter, he’s now only 7-of-10 on field goal attempts this season, and has already matched the amount of missed he had all of last season through only five games. In fact, that’s the most he’s ever missed in any season. Brady may be back, but the Patriots kicker seems very much lost for the time being. It won’t kill them in October, but if Gostkowski has the same problems during the second half of the season, it could prove to be a major deterrent, just as it was in Denver earlier this year.