The New England Patriots were gigantic losers most of the day against the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 8. Not only did the Patriots get outplayed by the 4-8 Browns, Rob Gronkowski suffered yet another devastating injury that could end his season. In fact, the only things that went right for the Patriots came in the final two minutes, by way of a touchdown, successful onside kick, debatable end zone penalty, another touchdown, a missed Browns field goal and an actual New England win.
The 27-26 Patriots victory doesn't begin to tell what a loss it really was for New England. Seemingly overmatched Cleveland and Jason Campbell carved the hosts up for much of the day, leading by 19-3 at one point and 26-14 with two minutes left. If that wasn't enough, Gronkowski was taken out with what was suspected to be a torn ACL, with an MRI coming on Dec. 9.
Once the Patriots finished losing, they would have fallen to the No. 3 AFC seed behind the 9-4 Cincinnati Bengals. However, in a year where the Patriots have stolen more than their share of wins -- and had a few taken away -- the football Gods gave them another reprieve.
It started when Tom Brady got a touchdown to Julian Edelman, but really got going when New England recovered the subsequent onside kick. Yet the tide truly turned when Cleveland's Leon McFadden was called for pass interference in the end zone moments later.
The call was widely regarded as incorrect by everyone else, and a make up for game deciding plays that went against the Patriots in their last two losses. Regardless, it led to a go-ahead touchdown to Danny Amendola with just 31 seconds left. Yet the Browns still had time to try for a 58-yard field goal, which Billy Cundiff -- who shanked the tying kick for the Baltimore Ravens in the 2012 AFC title game in Foxborough -- didn't have the leg for.
While there was a silver lining for New England after all on Dec. 8, Dec. 9 should bring back harsh reality once Gronkowski has his MRI. Although the Patriots are 10-3 and still mathematically alive to catch the Denver Broncos, nothing they did for the most part against the Browns -- and little they did without Gronkowski earlier this year -- looked Super Bowl worthy.