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Tom Brady, Patriots sizzle late to fend off Browns

In a game that loomed as a cakewalk for the New England Patriots, Sunday's 27-26 win at Gillette Stadium over the Cleveland Browns was anything but a given.

Quarterback Tom Brady overcame a slow start to guide the Patriots to 17 fourth-quarter points capped by his game-winning, 1-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Danny Amendola.

Here's what else we learned:

1. Rob Gronkowski was carted off the field with what is believed to be a torn ACL, a source who's spoken to the tight end told NFL Media's Albert Breer. An obviously devastating blow for the Patriots, who came into the game 22nd in scoring without Gronk, but 2nd with him in the lineup.

2. Cleveland's defense came to play. The Browns led 6-0 at half, holding Brady to 95 passing yards and an interception -- but it didn't last. Brady has been a surgeon with the game on the line over the past month. He's playing as well as any quarterback in the NFL down the stretch, especially with his back against the wall.

3. Taking nothing away from New England's third consecutive electric comeback, the pass interference call on Browns rookie cornerback Leon McFadden -- which set up the Amendola touchdown -- was suspect. Steve Tasker of CBS repeatedly slammed it as a "terrible call" and it's hard to disagree.

On NFL Network
NFL Replay
will re-air the New England Patriots' 27-26 win over the Cleveland Browns from Week 14 on Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 9 p.m. ET.

» NFL Network schedule

4. Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib got the best of Josh Gordon early, but the Browns receiver won the day. Gordon proved again that he can't be suppressed over four quarters, beating Talib in coverage and outrunning him for an 80-yard score that put Cleveland up 19-3 in the third quarter. Gordon's 774 receiving yards over his past four starts shatters a league record for yardage over a four-game span.

5. Back in the lineup, running back Stevan Ridley wasn't a factor early as the Patriots leaned on Shane Vereen's pass-catching ability and LeGarrette Blount on the ground. Ridley ultimately matched Blount's eight carries and, more importantly, didn't fumble. Still, it's Vereen who makes this offense go. He led all Patriots with 12 catches for 153 yards on the afternoon.

6. The Patriots' win keeps it simple; they're in excellent position for the second seed and a bye in the AFC -- and have a solid shot at No. 1 if the AFC West champion slips up.

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