Johnson returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown and Corey Dillon rushed for 98 yards and two TDs before halftime as the Patriots cruised to a 42-15 laugher over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
“A lot of things bounced our way,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. “It all started with Bethel.”
After catching Phil Dawson’s kick, Johnson headed up field as bodies began stacking up near the 20-yard line. In a blink, he was gone.
“There were three different lanes,” Johnson said. “I chose the one that was the widest.”
Johnson scored untouched and the overmatched Browns (3-9) barely laid a hand on the Patriots, who have won five straight games since having their NFL record 21-game winning streak stopped.
New England didn’t care if Cleveland had an interim coach, a raw rookie quarterback making his first pro start or backups on both side because of injuries. The Patriots showed the Browns no mercy.
World champions rarely do.
“There’s a reason why they are the Super Bowl champions,” Browns rookie QB Luke McCown said. “We have a long way to go before we’re at that level.”
Randall Gay ran in a fumble 41 yards for a TD early in the second half as the Patriots (11-1) continued the best start in franchise history and won for the 26th time in 27 regular-season games.
It would have been easy for New England to look past the Browns, who lost their sixth straight game just days after coach Butch Davis’ sudden resignation. He picked the perfect week to bow out.
New England coach Bill Belichick had the Patriots ready, and they didn’t hold back against the demoralized Browns, who are hoping to play well enough to convince owner Randy Lerner to keep interim coach Terry Robiskie around for good.
The Patriots took control right from the opening kick.
“You kind of knew something like that was going to happen,” McCown said. “That’s kind of the way the whole week has been.”
The 42 points were the most scored by the Patriots since Sept. 15, 2002, a 44-7 win at the New York Jets.
Brady passed for 157 yards and a touchdown before taking a seat late in the third with the Patriots up by five TDs. Dillon, who bruised his leg in the first half, carried just once in the second half and finished with 100 yards— his seventh 100-yard game this season.
Brady’s 44-yard TD pass to David Patten made it 42-7, meaning the Browns, who lost 58-48 at Cincinnati a week ago, had given up 100 points in 96:50.
It’s the most points the Browns have ever given up in consecutive games since joining the NFL in 1950.
“We got manhandled,” Robiskie said, “but guys were still fighting in the end.”
Problem was, so were the Patriots.
Even with his team leading by 35 in the third quarter, Belichick refused to call off his defense and continued to blitz the inexperienced McCown, who was sacked on three straight plays.
“Once they crossed midfield, we were trying to keep them out of the end zone,” Belichick said. “That’s what you try to do on defense.”
McCown finished 20-of-34 for 277 yards and threw his first two career TD passes, both to Antonio Bryant. After each of his scoring tosses, McCown pointed skyward in tribute to Tim Treadwell, his 24-year-old cousin who was electrocuted recently.
“He was in my heart,” McCown said.
Dillon scored from the 5 and 1 as the Patriots opened a 21-0 lead in the second quarter. The Browns scored with 50 seconds left before halftime, but the Patriots got the points back when Richard Seymour stripped William Green and the ball was scooped up by Gay, who zigzagged his way to the end zone.
Robiskie benched Green after the fumble. … Bryant had 115 yards, becoming the first Browns receiver with consecutive 100-yard games since Webster Slaughter in 1989. … Dillon has 1,111 yards in 11 career games against Cleveland. … Browns S Chris Crocker sprained his left elbow. … With Lerner searching for a general manager, Browns Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown said Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome would be a perfect fit. “I think he’d like to turn things around here,” Brown said. “Being from Cleveland, I believe he might be interested.” … Another candidate for Cleveland’s GM job could be Phil Savage, the Ravens’ player personnel director. “I’m really not allowed to say anything for four or five weeks,” Savage said. “But the Cleveland job is something like what I’ve been waiting for, because there seems as if there are no strings attached.”