FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) -- Mike Vrabel and the New England defense
baffled Cleveland's quarterbacks, then knocked them to the ground.
Vrabel's three sacks helped Adam Vinatieri's three field goals
stand up in the Patriots' 9-3 win over the Browns on Sunday,
stretch New England's winning streak to four games.
Question on the Browns: How can this team score or move the ball with Green sidelined?
They won't be able to score or move the ball without Green. The Browns' passing game is woeful and dependent on Green's contributions to the offense. They need to either get some semblance of a rushing game going with someone else or nurse Green back to health quickly.
Question on the Patriots: Where do you rank the Pats' defense?
This is one of the best and most versatile defenses in the AFC. They are playing well with different personnel playing in different spots every week. They've weathered injuries and roster moves and are still playing very well. It seems that as long as Ty Law is playing well, they're playing well.
Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.
New England (6-2) leads the AFC East and stopped a Cleveland
offense with Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb playing behind a makeshift
offensive line. For the second time in three games, the Patriots
didn't allow a touchdown.
"One week it's the line, one week it's the secondary," Vrabel
said. "It just happened to be a day for me to take advantage."
The game didn't provide much excitement, but Vrabel was
energized. He missed three games with a broken right arm before
playing sparingly a week earlier in a 19-13 victory over Miami.
The Browns (3-5) played without three injured offensive linemen
who figured to start when the season began. And Holcomb didn't
start because he wasn't healthy enough to practice fully. Holcomb
had missed three games with a broken right leg before taking over
for an ineffective Couch a week earlier.
But when Couch left with a sprained thumb midway through the
second quarter, Holcomb had to play.
"It's not easy for anybody to take 25 to 30 percent (of the
practice snaps) when you're getting ready for someone you assume is
going to be complicated defensively," Browns coach Butch Davis
said. "You've got to give one guy the lion's share of the work,
which we did."
And Vrabel took advantage.
"We worked all week on just trying to confuse whatever
quarterback was in the game," he said.
One bright spot for Cleveland was the 18 tackles, 16 unassisted,
by linebacker Ben Taylor.
"You have to feel like if you can hold people to three field
goals, you put yourself in a position to try and win the game,"
The Patriots wouldn't let them, solidifying their status as the
AFC East leader.
"Six wins, that's not going to get anything," New England
coach Bill Belichick said.
New England held the Browns to 203 yards and ended their last
chance when Ty Law intercepted at the New England 25 with 51
"Just trying to make a play," Holcomb said. "Didn't happen."
The Browns reached New England territory only once, but the
Patriots didn't do much with their chances. On four trips inside
the red zone, they came away with three field goals.
"Some of these weeks were going to have to score more points,"
quarterback Tom Brady said.
Cleveland's 8-3 record in its previous 11 road games didn't help
"The crowd is loud and not everyone is on the same page,"
Browns wide receiver Kevin Johnson said. "The crowd realizes this
and they get even louder."
That was Holcomb's first series after Couch left with a sprained
right thumb. X-rays were negative, but Couch didn't return. His
hand was heavily wrapped after the game. The Browns are off next
One week earlier, Holcomb came in after Couch threw two
interceptions and trailed San Diego 23-6 in the third quarter. The
Browns came back, but lost 26-20. Holcomb wasn't at full strength
Sunday, so Couch got the start until he was injured.
The Patriots took a 3-0 lead on Vinatieri's 27-yard field goal
on their first drive. He added a 28-yarder in the third quarter and
a 38-yarder with 2:05 left in the game.
The Patriots won without a touchdown because Couch and Holcomb
struggled. Couch went 7-for-11 for 40 yards, while Holcomb was
15-for-25 for 115 yards.
"They were taking away the big-play opportunities," Couch
said. "They're a confusing team."
Vrabel sacked both, getting to Couch once and Holcomb twice.
Vrabel's last sack came midway through the fourth quarter when he
threw Holcomb for an 8-yard loss at the Browns 18. That forced a
punt that led to Vinatieri's last field goal.
Kevin Faulk rushed for a career-high 96 yards on 23 carries. For
Cleveland, James Jackson gained 71 yards on 15 carries as Green's
^Notes:@ Patriots tight end Daniel Graham had career highs of seven
catches for 110 yards. ... Browns tight end Steve Heiden also had
career highs with six catches for 34 yards. ... Vrabel was the
first Patriot with three sacks in a game since Henry Thomas on Dec.
13, 1998 at St. Louis.