4:11 p.m.-TOM BRADY, MARTELLUS BENNETT LEAD NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS PAST CLEVELAND BROWNS
CLEVELAND -- New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady missed the first four games of the 2016 regular season because of an NFL-mandated suspension for allegedly having footballs deflated prior to the 2015 AFC Championship Game, and he took out that frustration against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium Sunday.
In his return to action, Brady completed 28 of his 40 throws for 406 yards with three touchdowns on the way to a 33-13 win for the Patriots (4-1) over the Browns (0-5). It marked the eighth time in his 17-year career that Brady threw for 400 yards in a game, and all three of those touchdown passes went to tight end Martellus Bennett.
Two of Brady’s targets, wide receiver Chris Hogan and tight end Rob Gronkowski, eclipsed the 100-yard mark. Despite being evaluated for a concussion early in the second half, Hogan turned four catches into 114 yards, while Gronkowski tallied 109 yards.
Conversely, the Browns had three players line up at quarterback, including starter Cody Kessler and reserve Charlie Whitehurst. Both Kessler (chest/rib) and Whitehurst (left knee) were knocked out of the game by the Patriots’ defense.
3:30 p.m.-WHITEHURST TOSSES TD TO HAMLETT
CLEVELAND -- After four straight scores by the New England Patriots, the Cleveland Browns found their way into the end zone when backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst completed a 17-yard pass to reserve tight end Connor Hamlett for the touchdown.
Hamlett’s first career NFL touchdown reception cut the Patriots’ lead over the Browns to 30-13 with 14:05 to play in the fourth quarter.
Earlier in the drive, Whitehurst delivered a 24-yard pass to wide receiver Andrew Hawkins, and on the next play, he found tight end Gary Barnidge for a gain of 31 yards.
2:51 p.m.-BENNETT, BRADY COMBINE ON THIRD TD
CLEVELAND -- New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has long loved to use his tight ends in the passing game, and that has not change after his four-game suspension.
In his return to the NFL, Brady has found tight end Martellus Bennett for three touchdowns, the latest being a 37-yard score that gave the Patriots a 30-7 lead over the Cleveland Browns with 12:24 to play in the third quarter from FirstEnergy Stadium.
On first-and-10 from the Browns’ 37-yard line, Brady used a play-action fake to attract the attention of the defense, and Bennett released off of the line of scrimmage to get behind the secondary. Bennett hauled in the pass at the 17-yard line, sprinted his down the right sideline and dove through a tackle attempt from safety Jordan Poyer to break the plane of the end zone.
The 37-yard catch marked the first three-touchdown game of Bennett’s career, and put Brady over the 300-yard mark early into the second half.
1:51 p.m.-PATRIOTS HIT PAYDIRT ONCE AGAIN
CLEVELAND -- New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is three for three in touchdown drives after his return to the NFL from a four-game suspension.
Just as he did on the second drive, Brady went to tight end Martellus Bennett with a pass on third down, and it resulted in a touchdown, which gave the visiting Patriots a 23-7 lead over the Cleveland Browns with 12:10 to play in the first half from FirstEnergy Stadium.
The big play of the drive came when Brady found wide receiver Chris Hogan streaking down the left side of the field for a 43-yard gain. That reception moved the ball from midfield to the Browns’ seven-yard line. Three plays later, the Patriots found the end zone for the third time in the half.
1:41 p.m.-BROWNS GIVE UP SAFETY
CLEVELAND -- The New England Patriots’ defense brought a heavy rush against Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Cody Kessler early in the third defensive drive of the game, and it resulted in a safety that built their lead to 16-7 with 1:20 to play in the first quarter.
Facing a second-and-12 from the 10-yard line after a loss of two yards on first down following a short kickoff return from rookie defensive Tracy Howard, Kessler fumbled the ball at the four and it went out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
Following the play, Kessler was slow to get up and needed help from his left guard, Joel Bitonio, to get back to his feet. Then, Kessler walked to the locker room for evaluation.
1:33 p.m.-TOM BRADY THROWS FIRST TD PASS OF SEASON
CLEVELAND -- New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is making up for lost time.
Fresh off of a four-game suspension, Brady has guided the Patriots down the field for touchdowns on each of their first two possessions and capped off the second scoring drive with a seven-yard touchdown pass to tight end Martellus Bennett.
Brady’s first touchdown pass of the season gave New England a 14-7 lead over the Cleveland Browns with 2:06 to play in the first quarter from FirstEnergy Stadium.
Just as he did on the first possession, Brady went four for five on the second touchdown drive and threw for 64 yards, including nine and 12-yard passes to wide receiver Julian Edelman. Brady added a 36-yard pass to running back James White that moved the ball down to Cleveland’s nine-yard line.
On the touchdown play, Bennett lined up next to the tackle on the right side of the formation and after an initial block, he leaked out to the flat while the wide receivers drew coverage from the secondary into the end zone. Bennett secured the catch and walked into the end zone after coming up with an ankle injury on the first drive of the game.
1:25 p.m.-BROWNS ANSWER WITH TOUCHDOWN
CLEVELAND -- Down by seven points after the New England Patriots marched down the field for a touchdown, the Cleveland Browns had an answer with their own trip into the end zone on the ensuing possession.
Browns rookie quarterback Cody Kessler led a nine-play, 75-yard drive, and capped it off with an 11-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Andrew Hawkins, which drew them even with the Patriots, 7-7, with 6:09 to play in the first quarter from FirstEnergy Stadium.
On first-and-10 from the Patriots’ 11-yard line, Kessler surveyed the field and found Hawkins breaking free into the end zone on the left side of the field. Hawkins got away from the coverage and gave Kessler a big window to throw into.
Hawkins secured the catch and got two feet down in bounds for the game-tying score.
1:14 p.m.-BLOUNT GIVES PATRIOTS 7-0 LEAD
CLEVELAND -- The New England Patriots got starting quarterback Tom Brady back from suspension on Monday, and on his very first series at the helm of the offense, he engineered an eight-play, 80-yard drive that running back LeGarrette Blount capped off with a one-yard touchdown run.
Blount’s scoring run gave the Patriots a 7-0 lead over the Cleveland Browns with 10:23 to play in the first quarter from FirstEnergy Stadium.
Brady completed four of his first five pass attempts of the season for 65 yards, and distributed the ball to his top three targets, tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett and wide receiver Julian Edelman.
Gronkowski turned his two catches into 53 yards, including a 34-yarder that moved the ball down to the Cleveland two-yard line after running around, past and through a handful of Browns defenders. Edelman hauled in a 10-yard reception on the opening drive.