Patriots

AFC: Brissett gets in sync to lead Colts past Browns, 31-28

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AFC: Brissett gets in sync to lead Colts past Browns, 31-28

INDIANAPOLIS - Jacoby Brissett needed one game to really get acclimated to running the Colts' offense.

On Sunday, he showed how much he's picked up in three short weeks.

The quarterback, acquired from New England in a Sept. 2 trade, ran for two touchdowns and threw for another then watched the defense hold off Cleveland's late charge for a 31-28 victory - Indy's first of the season.

"Another week, you get a lot more comfortable," Brissett said. "You get to learn from the mistakes you make. I was a lot more, at ease, I would say. It's something I'm still getting used to, but it definitely felt a lot more comfortable today."

Perfect? Not by a longshot.

But unlike a week ago, Brissett avoided making any big mistakes and he managed to get in sync with his wide receivers.

The timing looked better, the throws went deeper and Brissett made key plays almost every time he got the chance. He wound up 17 of 24 with 259 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions while running five times for 14 yards.

And on a day that began with fans booing more than two dozen players who took a knee during the national anthem and ended with the Colts barely hanging on, coach Chuck Pagano walked away with a sense of relief.

"Loved how we started this football game," he said. "Any time you can put 28 points on the board in the first half and get a bunch of three-and-outs on defense and get three takeaways and you can close it out, we need to do a better job of that."

With the win, Indy (1-2) avoids its first 0-3 start since 2011.

For Cleveland (0-3), the struggles continue.

The Browns have lost 28 of their past 30 overall and 15 consecutive on the road, even after entering the game as a road favorite for the first time since 2012.

Cleveland had opportunities - scoring two TDs in the final seven minutes before forcing a punt and getting the ball back at their 9-yard line with 23 seconds to go.

But Rashaan Melvin snuffed out two other scoring chances by picking off DeShone Kizer, who was intercepted again on the game's final play - a desperation heave toward midfield.

"We're tired of being short. Nobody's down," Browns coach Hue Jackson said.

Brissett was the difference.

After acknowledging he spent his first two weeks with the team learning new names, new faces and a new playbook, Brissett got the scoring started with a perfectly timed quarterback draw. The 5-yard TD run made it 7-0.

On Indy's next series, he broke a 7-7 tie by spinning away from the Browns' pressure and scooting 7 yards for another score.

T.Y. Hilton followed that with a nifty 61-yard catch-and-run to make it 21-7, one of his seven catches for 153 yards. Frank Gore's 4-yard TD run extended the lead to 28-87 and forced the Browns to play catch-up the rest of the day.

The Browns got a 19-yard TD run from Duke Johnson Jr. and two TD passes from Kizer - a 1-yarder to David Njoku just before halftime and an 11-yarder to Kenny Britt - before Kizer scored on a 1-yard plunge with 2:04 left to cut the deficit to 31-28.

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Julio Jones presents Johnson Bademosi opportunity to prove he's not niche player

Julio Jones presents Johnson Bademosi opportunity to prove he's not niche player

None of us thought Johnson Bademosi would be starting this past Sunday at MetLife Stadium against the Jets because -- well -- that’s not what we perceive the 27-year-old to be. He’s a special teamer. It’s how he’s made his mark in the NFL dating back to 2012 with Cleveland. So why would that change in mid-October for a team he’s only been with for six weeks? Because Bademosi is -- and has always been -- intent on proving he’s more than a niche player.

“I see myself as a football player,” he said, “and whatever position they put me in, I’m going to try to be the best because that’s how I operate and who I am as a person. Whether that’s as a cornerback, on special teams, if they ask me to play wildcat quarterback. Whatever…”

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Bill Belichick and his staff asked for Bademosi to go on the field and not come off. He played 73 defensive snaps in addition to his usual core four special teams duties. 

“I felt like I played a whole game,” Bademosi joked, before saying, “I love playing football so I’m going to go out there and empty myself.”

He did just that, getting targeted only two times in the 24-17 win over the Jets. It was hoped that Bademosi would return to his normal specialist role, but with Stephon Gilmore still out with a concussion, it now seems more and more likely that the sixth year pro will have to be an ironman again Sunday night in primetime against the Falcons. Historically, the Pats have defended bigger receivers. That means Bademosi may be responsible for one of the most dangerous players in the league, Julio Jones.

“He’s an amazing player," he said. “We all know what he’s capable of. As a defense, we have to be prepared for him.”

The Pats were on Super Bowl Sunday and Jones still made a couple of ridiculous plays with either Logan Ryan or Eric Rowe in coverage with safety help over the top.

“He’s fast. He’s physical. He can jump. He can run. He’s smart. He’s everything you want in a wide receiver,” said Bademosi without blinking an eye. That’s the kind of confidence you want from a player at that position and facing this type of challenge. 

“You gotta believe in yourself,” he said “ I’m confident in my abilities. I work hard and trust my preparation.”

Being an elite athlete certainly helps. Bademosi was a scholarship football player at Stanford -- “some guy named Jim Harbaugh called” -- before ending up in the NFL. But it’s Bademosi’s willingness to go all in in the film room that impressed safety Devin McCourty. 

“…I think, honestly, the most work he did was probably with just himself jumping into the film, watching more stuff to exactly see,” said McCourty Thursday. “You know, when you’re a backup more, you’re kind of trying to see everything because you don’t know what role you might be thrust upon once you’re in the game. But, I think once he knew he was starting, it was kind of like, ‘Alright, let me focus in on this.’ I thought he did an awesome job of just being ready and competing.”

Bademosi will have to compete his ass off Sunday night, even against what has been to this point a physically compromised Jones. Based on what he did several days ago, there’s no reason to believe the Pats cornerback won’t bring everything he has, trying to prove again that he’s more than just a special teams whiz.

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