<
>

RB returns, pounds in go-ahead TD

10/6/2003

FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) -- It was a dream come true for Mike Cloud --
literally.

Cloud returned Sunday from a four-game suspension for violating
the league's substance abuse policy and scored the go-ahead
touchdown on a 15-yard run with 3:14 left to give the New England
Patriots a 38-30 win over Tennessee.

"As I went to bed last night, I had visions of something good
happening," Cloud said. "I guess the dream was right."

The final five minutes were wild. Before a crowd cheering as
much for baseball's Red Sox, Cloud put the Patriots ahead for good
with his touchdown run, then Ty Law clinched it with a 65-yard
interception return for a TD.

The sequence started with 4:40 remaining when Steve McNair
bulled into the end zone from a yard out to give the Titans (3-2) a
25-24 lead, and threw for a 2-point conversion to rookie Tyrone
Calico. It came at the end of a 17-play, 86-yard drive that
consumed more than seven minutes.

But another rookie, the Patriots' Bethel Johnson, returned the
kickoff 71 yards to the Tennessee 30. Three plays later, Cloud ran
up the middle for the winning TD, capping a day in which he gained
73 yards on seven carries.

Cloud, who grew up in Rhode Island and played at Boston College,
signed with New England from Kansas City in the offseason despite
facing a suspension after testing positive for a banned supplement.

As it turned out, his TD wasn't quite the clincher.

The Titans were driving on the next series, but Law jumped in
front of Calico and raced down the sideline untouched. Law was
playing with a sprained ankle on a defense that has been without as
many as nine starters this season.

McNair was trying to take advantage of the three-time Pro Bowl
cornerback, by far the best member of New England's secondary.

"I thought I could get it in there with the bad leg he had,"
said McNair, who was 23-of-45 for 391 yards and ran for two scores.
"I don't guess right all the time. He broke on it, did a good job
and that was the ball game."

Not quite. Gary Anderson's 41-yard field goal with 36 seconds
left cut it to eight points and Christian Fauria had to recover an
onside kick to ensure the win.

New England (3-2), which had been averaging less than 100 yards
rushing a game, ended up with 161 on the ground, 80 on 16 carries
from Antowain Smith. With Kevin Faulk out with a leg injury, Cloud
was the only option when Smith was shaken up in the third quarter.

On his first carry, the Patriots were called for illegal
procedure. On the next play, Cloud burst for 17 yards. He stayed in
for the remainder of the game because he played so well.

"I thought after that first one I might be done for the day,"
said Cloud, who backed up Priest Holmes in Kansas City. "But I
felt good and I felt things would come."

"When you allow your opponent to rush for 160-170 yards and you
tackle as poorly as we did and you were ineffective in your kickoff
coverage, it makes it tough to win," Titans coach Jeff Fisher
said.

The other hero, Law, actually missed part of the second half.

"He was jumping up and down asking me to come in," coach Bill
Belichick said.

The Titans scored on their first two possessions, getting a
48-yard field goal from Craig Hentrich and a 43-yarder from
Anderson.

Tom Brady's 58-yard TD pass to Troy Brown gave the Patriots a
7-6 lead. But McNair scored from a yard out to give Tennessee a
13-7 halftime lead.

The Patriots went ahead again on a 59-yard drive in 11 plays
capped by Smith's 1-yard run on the first drive of the third
quarter. Anderson's 33-yard field goal on the next drive put the
Titans ahead 16-14.

Cloud's 1-yard run made it 21-16 New England, then Anderson and
Adam Vinatieri traded field goals to make it 24-19.

Then came the strange ending to a strange day.

Brown, for example, couldn't figure out what was going on when
the crowd cheered after he had a punt return for a touchdown called
back.

"It surprised me to hear the cheers, but I knew something good
had happened, like they picked up the flag or something," he said.

Not quite that good. But the end was fine.

Game notes
Tennessee cornerback Samari Rolle left the game in the
second quarter with a dislocated elbow. ... Vinatieri missed field
goals of 34 and 39 yards after missing just 1- of-20 from less than
40 yards over the past two seasons. ... New England had seven
opening-day starters on the inactive list. ... Hentrich, the
punter, was 3-of-7 in field goals in his 10-year career and hadn't
made one since 1995. This season, he is 4-for-4.