Patriots Winning Close Ones

Tom Brady vs Minnesota (AP Photo)

Pundits have them ranked anywhere from 3 to 13 in the power rankings, yet the Patriots have the best record in the NFL. They may not be dominating, but even winning the close ones is ... well, winning. Up next, the struggling Browns molded in Patriots fashion by former NE Coordinator, and reviled character, Eric Mangini.

The Patriots ride a five-game winning streak into Cleveland on Sunday to take on the 2-5 Browns. Though the boys in the Dawg Pound have been playing teams tough, including beating the Saints prior to last weekend's bye, it's by far the least impressive of New England's opponents in what was seen as a formidable midseason run of games.

The Patriots got it rolling in the right direction with a win over the Dolphins in Miami in Week 4. It continued after the Patriots bye, during which Randy Moss was traded to the Vikings, with an overtime win against Baltimore. Then a successful trip to San Diego was followed by this past Sunday's dismissal of Moss' Vikings at Gillette Stadium.

New England resides alone atop the AFC East with a 6-1 mark. Bill Belichick's team is by no means dominating teams as it continues to give up too many yards on defense and struggles a bit on offense in the post-Moss era. But it's getting key plays at key times to pull out wins.

Against Minnesota that was a 13-play, 80-yard drive in the fourth quarter to grind out the clock that culminated in a touchdown to essentially shut the door on Brad Childress' floundering team.

"We're winning close games. We're winning tough games," Tom Brady said. "I think that's what it takes. You have to win on the road. You have to beat good teams. You have to win when you're down. You have to come from behind in the fourth quarter. You have to keep the lead when you have it in the fourth quarter. All those things we talk about. That's what coach Belichick preaches. I think it's nice when we can go out on the field and execute it."

That's exactly what the Patriots have been doing for the last five weeks. The young team's been able to win throughout the maturing process, and hopes to do so moving forward in a stretch that after Cleveland includes a trip to Pittsburgh before returning home to face the Colts.

So far Brady and Company has been up to the weekly challenge. But the road doesn't get any easier.

"It's the way it's always been around here. It's really one game at a time," Brady concluded. "To think past that, it won't work on this team. It doesn't work on any team. With as many young guys as we have we need to think about today and then tomorrow and not get too far ahead of ourselves. Coach always says, six games gets you nothing in this league. It's true. So we've won six games. If we have six wins at the end of the year we haven't done anything. So there is a lot of football left and we have a big game coming up this week on the road."

LINEUP WATCH: With Jarrad Page having missed two games and Patrick Chung out of action for the last week-plus, rookie free agent safety Sergio Brown has been forced into playing time since being called up from the practice squad on Oct. 23.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5 -- Number of consecutive games in which BenJarvus Green-Ellis has reached the end zone, including his first career two-TD game in beating the Vikings.

PLAYER NOTES
--RB Fred Taylor (toe) missed his fourth-straight game when he was listed as out on the Friday injury report prior to the meeting with the Vikings.
--S Jarrad Page (calf) was also listed as out prior to taking on the Vikings, missing his second-straight week.
--S Patrick Chung (knee) missed his first game of the season after warming up but failing to prove he was ready to go in a game-time decision prior the 4:15 start against Minnesota.
--WR Taylor Price, WR Matthew Slater (ankle), OL Rich Ohrnberger, T Mark LeVoir and DL Kyle Love rounded out New England's inactive list against the Vikings.
--RB Danny Woodhead scored his third touchdown of the season on a direct-snap, 3-yard run in the second quarter against Minnesota.
--RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a career-best 112 yards on 17 carries and his first multi-touchdown game when he scored from 13 and 2 yards in the 28-18 win over the Vikings.

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