Pats’ Brady passes for 406 yards in re­turn

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Tom Withers

CLEVE­LAND >> Tom Brady, look­ing ra­zor-sharp at times and rel­a­tively rust-free af­ter serv­ing his four-game “De­flate­gate” sus­pen­sion, passed for 406 yards and three touch­downs to Martel­lus Ben­nett in his hyped re­turn and the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots thumped the Cleve­land Browns 33-13 on Sun­day.

Brady was back — much to the re­lief of team­mates and New Eng­land fans ev­ery­where — fol­low­ing a ban for his role in the scan­dal in which an NFL investigation found the Pa­tri­ots un­der-in­flated foot­balls in the 2015 AFC cham­pi­onship game.

Brady fought Com­mis­sioner Roger Good­ell’s rul­ing for more than a year be­fore he be­grudg­ingly ac­cepted his pun­ish­ment.

He took out some of that builtup frus­tra­tion on the Browns (05), throw­ing for 271 yards in the first half, as the Pa­tri­ots (4-1) re­bounded af­ter be­ing shut out last week at home by Buf­falo.

Brady threw two short TD passes in the first half to Ben­nett be­fore hook­ing up with his new team­mate again on a 37-yarder to give the Pa­tri­ots a 30-7 lead in the third quar­ter.

Brady seemed to en­joy every sec­ond of his sea­son de­but, even pos­ing like track star Usain Bolt af­ter a 4-yard run. Coach Bill Belichick re­placed Brady with 6:02 left, greet­ing him on the side­line with a hand­shake and pat on the back.

The 39-year-old was far from per­fect, over­throw­ing Ju­lian Edel­man for a pos­si­ble long TD, but Brady spread the ball around and showed a nice touch on a few passes, in­clud­ing a floater to Rob Gronkowski for 37 yards in the fourth.

LeGar­rette Blount added a 1-yard score for the Pa­tri­ots.

Un­for­tu­nately for the Browns, a re­build­ing sea­son is spi­ral­ing out of con­trol.

Cleve­land has dropped seven straight and 14 of 15 go­ing back to last sea­son, and Browns coach Hue Jack­son is run­ning out of quar­ter­backs af­ter rookie Cody Kessler was knocked out in the first half with rib and chest in­juries.

Quar­ter­back-turned-wide re­ceiver Ter­relle Pryor took two snaps be­fore veteran Char­lie White­hurst re­placed him, be­com­ing the fifth quar­ter­back to play for Cleve­land in five games.

White­hurst limped off the field with 3:57 left.

Thou­sands of New Eng­land fans, many wear­ing No. 12 jer­seys, made the trip to Ohio to greet Brady. They stood and cheered loudly as he jogged into the hud­dle be­fore his first snap since last sea­son’s AFC ti­tle game.

At that mo­ment, all was right again from Cam­bridge to Maine’s coast­line.

Brady com­pleted his first pass to his fa­vorite tar­get, Edel­man, and he con­nected twice on New Eng­land’s open­ing drive with Gronkowski, who sidestepped a cou­ple of tack­lers and looked like the in­domitable “Gronk” as he bulled his way to the Cleve­land 1 be­fore Blount scored.

Brady went 4 of 5 — the in­com­ple­tion was dropped — on the Pa­tri­ots’ open­ing drive and he was ef­fi­cient on the sec­ond, which ended with his 7-yard TD pass to Ben­nett.

The four-time Su­per Bowl cham­pion ar­rived at FirstEn­ergy Sta­dium around 9:30 a.m. and af­ter a quick stop in the locker room, walked onto the field wear­ing a red Pa­tri­ots sweat­shirt.

He looked around at the empty seats and sat for a mo­ment on New Eng­land’s bench to re­flect.

Brady stretched and went down a cor­ri­dor with re­sis­tance bands around his waist about an hour be­fore kick­off.

With fans sit­ting near the tun­nel chant­ing, “Brady, Bra-dy,” the star stared ahead as he slowly walked from the locker room with Jimmy Garop­polo, who started two games in his ab­sence.

Garop­polo’s day will come.

Brady, though, is back.

DAVID RICHARD — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pa­tri­ots quar­ter­back Tom Brady cel­e­brates touch­down dur­ing vic­tory over Browns.

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