FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — This was one impressive comeback, even for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
Brady threw two touchdown passes in the final 61 seconds, helping the Patriots rally for a 27-26 victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
The Patriots (10-3) cut the deficit to 26-21 on Brady’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Julian Edelman with 1:01 left. Then Kyle Arrington recovered the onside kick at the Cleveland 40-yard line.
The successful recovery was set up by an unnecessary roughness penalty for a hit on Edelman. That allowed the Patriots to kick off from the 50-yard line rather than their 35. Arrington recovered after Cleveland’s Fozzy Whitaker touched, but couldn’t control, the ball.
Brady completed a 10-yard pass to Danny Amendola. Then Leon McFadden was called for defensive pass interference against Josh Boyce in the end zone. That put the ball at the 1 where Brady connected with Amendola again.
The Browns (4-9) then moved the ball to the Patriots 40 with 1 second left, but Billy Cundiff missed a 58-yard field goal.
New England lost tight end Rob Gronkowski to a potentially serious knee injury in the third quarter. Coach Bill Belichick said after the game that Gronkowski went to a hospital for observation.
The Patriots trailed 6-0 at halftime in the fifth time in six games that they were behind at intermission. The deficit grew to 19-3 on Josh Gordon’s latest long touchdown, an 80-yard catch and run with 1:25 left in the third quarter.
New England fell behind 26-14 when Jason Campbell, who missed Cleveland’s previous game with a concussion, threw his third touchdown pass, a 4-yarder to Jordan Cameron with 2:39 left.
But Brady responded with the TD pass to Edelman, and the Patriots were on their way to an important rally that kept them in front in the race for the No. 2 playoff seed in the AFC. Had New England lost the game, Cincinnati would have moved into the second position.
The late comeback ruined another brilliant game by Gordon, who had seven catches for 151 yards. It was the third time in four weeks that he scored on pass plays of more than 70 yards.
Gordon set an NFL record of 774 yards receiving in four consecutive games. Calvin Johnson set the previous mark of 746 this season. Gordon also set a single-season team record for yards receiving with 1,400. Braylon Edwards established the previous mark of 1,289 in 2007.
The Patriots got off to another slow start and trailed at intermission for the fourth consecutive game. They’ve been outscored 57-10 in those first halves.
The Browns also struggled offensively in the first half and led 6-0 on field goals of 43 and 37 yards by Cundiff.
Gronkowski was hurt when hit by Cleveland safety T.J. Ward after a 21-yard completion. The star tight end missed the first six games of the season recovering from offseason surgeries on his left forearm and back. In his six full games after returning, he led NFL tight ends with 37 catches and 560 yards receiving.