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NEW ENGLAND 9, CLEVELAND 3

It's 'V' for Vinatieri, Vrabel ... and Victory

October 27, 2003|From Associated Press

FOXBORO, Mass. — Mike Vrabel and the New England defense baffled Cleveland's quarterbacks, then knocked them to the ground.

Vrabel's three sacks helped Adam Vinatieri's three field goals stand up in the Patriots' 9-3 win over the Browns on Sunday, stretching New England's winning streak to four games.

New England (6-2) leads the AFC East and stopped a Cleveland offense with Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb playing behind a makeshift line. For the second time in three games, the Patriots didn't give up a touchdown.

"One week it's the line, one week it's the secondary," Vrabel said. "It just happened to be a day for me to take advantage."

The game didn't provide much excitement, but Vrabel was energized. He sat out three games because of a broken right arm before playing sparingly a week earlier in a 19-13 victory over Miami.

The Browns (3-5) are playing with a offensive line that's missing three starters who are injured. And Holcomb didn't start because he wasn't healthy enough to practice fully. Holcomb had sat out three games because of a broken right leg before taking over for an ineffective Couch a week earlier.

But when Couch left with a sprained thumb in the second quarter, Holcomb had to play.

"It's not easy for anybody to take 25 to 30% [of the practice snaps] when you're getting ready for someone you assume is going to be complicated defensively," Brown Coach Butch Davis said. "You've got to give one guy the lion's share of the work, which we did."

And Vrabel took advantage.

"We worked all week on just trying to confuse whatever quarterback was in the game," he said.

One bright spot for Cleveland was the 18 tackles, 16 unassisted, by linebacker Ben Taylor.

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