By: Christopher Price
December 06, 2004

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From week to week, the NFL is a roller coaster. That's why you never take anything for granted, even when you're playing a team as bad as the Browns. Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick warned the media this week -- as he has done the previous five weeks -- that in the NFL, anything can happen. Even against Cleveland.

Of course, anything could have happened yesterday. Interim Head Coach Terry Robiskie could have turned into Paul Brown, rookie quarterback Luke McCown could've morphed into Otto Graham and the ghosts of great Cleveland teams from the past could have returned and helped lead the Browns to an upset of New England. As Belichick said, anything could have happened.

Just not yesterday.

Belichick was run out of Cleveland nine years ago by a fan base that blamed him for everything from the pollution on Lake Erie to the Indians' pitching woes. As a result, he would never admit it, but he takes pleasure in giving a semiannual beatdown to the City by the Lake. (Given the opportunity, Belichick would likely cancel "The Drew Carey Show,"¯ eliminate Chief Wahoo and move the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to Nantucket.) That's why, in a game that screamed "TRAP"¯ in giant orange and black letters, no one should be that surprised New England blasted the Browns, 42-15, yesterday in a game that wasn't as close as the score.

Where to start with this one? How about the defense coming up with three sacks and a pair of interceptions? Bethel Johnson returning the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown? Or maybe a running game that rolled over the Browns for 225 yards? In each and every area, the Patriots dominated the Browns.

"There's a reason why they're the Super Bowl champions,"¯ McCown told reporters afterward.

While it was an eye-opener to Cleveland football fans, yesterday's game was simply the latest chapter in a story we've all read before. Most times, the story usually opens with Belichick saying New England's upcoming opponent is a combination of the 1972 Dolphins, the 1985 Bears and the 2000 Ravens. Their offense is explosive, their defense is full of Pro Bowlers and their special teams unit is the most special collection of individuals in the league. People wonder if this is the week the Patriots are finally upset by an inferior opponent.

But for the 11th time in 12 games this year -- and for the 26th time in the last 27 regular-season games -- the story ends the same way, with New England imposing its will on the opposition.

Next week, the Patriots roller coaster includes another potential dip when New England welcomes Cincinnati to Foxboro. Belichick will tell us anything could happen -- especially against the Bengals, a team that has an explosive offense, a defense full of Pro Bowlers and the most special special teams unit in the league. Anything could happen.

But as we've discovered over the last five weeks, we know that's not necessarily the case. Especially when this year's Patriots are involved.

Christopher Price covers the Patriots for Boston Metro and BostonPressBox.com. He can be reached at capeleaguer@hotmail.com.


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