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Tom Brady dominant in his return, Patriots lead Browns 23-7 at the half

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The Patriots quarterback looks like he hasn’t missed a beat.

So, uh, guys, Tom Brady is back.

The New England Patriots have a comfortable 23-7 lead going into the half and are set to receive the kick after halftime.

The Patriots won the opening coin toss and elected to defer to the second half and the Browns received the opening kick off. The Patriots forced a three-and-out and Brady took the field.

Brady hit Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, and Martellus Bennett to get to the Browns 2 yard line and LeGarrette Blount hammered it home to take a 7-0 lead.

The Browns responded with a touchdown drive of their own, thanks to a first down off a Malcom Brown holding penalty, and 3rd down conversions on passes to RB Isaiah Crowell and Terrelle Pryor. The Patriots mixed coverage on Pryor all half to ensure the Browns couldn’t get into a rhythm.

Brady and the offense went back to work and marched down the field thanks to a 36-yard catch by James White, before Brady connected with Bennett for the first of their two touchdown connections.

The Browns are using their third string center and Dont’a Hightower took advantage of the match-up by hitting Browns quarterback Cody Kessler in the middle of a swing pass. Kessler’s pass ended up going backwards and out of the end zone, so the Patriots earned a safety and took a 16-7 lead. Kessler was hurt on the play and didn’t see the field for the rest of the half.

On the Patriots next drive, Brady hit Chris Hogan on a 43-yard deep shot to set the offense up with a first-and-goal. Brady hit Bennett again to take a 23-7 lead.

The Browns did nothing on their next possession, giving the ball back to the Patriots. Brady hit Hogan for 63 yards to set up another first-and-goal situation. Unfortunately, Brady threw one of his two inaccurate passes of the first half on a fade to Edelman, and Blount ran on the next three plays as the Patriots failed to convert on a 4th and 1 on the goal line.

Cleveland, naturally, did nothing on their next drive and gave the ball back to the Patriots. The Patriots offense stalled for the first time all game as Malcolm Mitchell and Julian Edelman bobbled and dropped catchable balls. The Patriots went 3-and-out, despite a nifty 5-yard toe-dragging catch by Mitchell.

The Browns did nothing on their next drive- they have just 105 yards on the game- and the Patriots went back to work. Brady and the offense drove down to the Browns 32 yard line with a chance to score and get the ball after the half, but Stephen Gostkowski missed the 50-yard field goal wide right.

The Patriots had a few stand-out players in the first half. Brady was 15 of 20 for 253 yards and 2 touchdowns over the first half, with four of those incomplete passes arguably drops. Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett were unstoppable together and Chris Hogan was electric and offered a deep threat that the Patriots haven’t had in years.

On defense, Jabaal Sheard has played consistently on the edge with a few nice stops. Rookie linebacker Elandon Roberts might have been the Patriots best defender of the half with multiple stops and blown up plays- he also had a nice coverage play.

The Patriots will take their 23-7 lead into the half and the game isn’t this close. The Patriots could very well have a 33-7 lead if Blount and Gostkowski were able to punch home their scoring chances.

Patriots get the ball after the half.