Tom Brady turns in vintage Tom Brady performance in return from suspension

CLEVELAND — Tom Brady has never admitted any guilt in the deflate-gate scandal. Instead, he has maintained NFL commissioner Roger Goodell unfairly suspended him via a flawed investigative/judicial process over the inflation levels of the footballs in the AFC championship game a couple seasons ago.

Suspended he was though: for four games. That left the Cleveland Browns here in Week 5 to bear the brunt of Brady’s rest and revenge. A vengeful New England dominated in a 33-13 victory.

The four-time Super Bowl champion tore the Browns defense to pieces, going 28-of-40 passing for 406 yards and three touchdowns. He even managed to rush for 14 yards.

He hit deep balls. He hit short passes. He managed the Patriots offense. He confused the Browns defense. He did nearly anything he wanted, the rare incompletion (on at least three occasions courtesy of receiver drops) was met with gasps of surprise by the many Brady-jersey-clad Patriots fans who descended on Paul Brown Stadium, turning the place into a Mini-Midwestern Foxborough.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

When in the third quarter he scrambled for four yards and a first down, he did a dramatic hand motion to the delight of New England fans in attendance.

New England is now 4-1 on the season and per usual look like a Super Bowl contender. The Brady suspension was overcome with ease and the offense is just now ramping up to full speed, particularly with a still-rounding-into-full-health Rob Gronkowski. Meanwhile, the defense appears improved from a year ago, when New England lost to Denver in the AFC title game.

Sunday was vintage Brady, moving the ball around by hitting seven different receivers. He found tight end Martellus Bennett, an off-season acquisition Brady had yet to play with, for three touchdowns, showing a new red-zone threat.

He dropped one into a streaking, in-stride Chris Hogan for a 63-yard gain in the second quarter that was about as perfect as a ball can be thrown. He had similar deep beauties delivered to Gronkowski and Bennett. In total, five passes went for 30-plus yards.

Cleveland offered the perfect stage for a comeback. The weather here was ideal, the opponent compliant. It was like a baseball pitcher engaging in a simulated game or a rehab assignment in Triple-A, a pure tune-up for heavier lifting in the weeks to come – Cincinnati next week followed by a trip to Pittsburgh, at Buffalo and a visit from Seattle.

Whatever rustiness Brady had – and not much was evident – was concealed by playing the winless Browns. The game was effectively over in the first quarter. Swaths of the stands were noticeably empty by the middle of the third quarter.

By the middle of the fourth quarter, even Brady had turned into a spectator, his continued presence on the field deemed unnecessary. He stood and cheered on back-up Jimmy Garoppolo, who handled mop-up duties.

Roger Goodell was not in attendance.

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