Pats look destined

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 3:58 PM ET

The lingering stench of yet another Cleveland Browns stinker was still wafting through the bowels of Browns Stadium yesterday afternoon when the legendary Jim Brown offered a congratulatory handshake to New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

No word as to whether Brown, arguably the greatest running back in NFL history, tried to hit up Kraft for a pair of Super Bowl ducats during their brief conversation.

It might have been adviseable, given the fact the Pats appear destined on reaching the championship game yet again.

While thrashing the hapless Browns 42-15 is hardly a reason for Tom Brady and Co. to begin beating their collective chests, it was the way the Pats efficiently carved up the Browns that has many observers feeling the defending champs might be the best all-around team in the NFL.

New England received touchdowns from its offence, defence and special teams, including a 93-yard return on the opening kickoff by Bethel Johnson that set the tone for the game.

"When you score on the first play, it really puts the momentum in your favour," Brady said. "It gave us a boost."

So did running back Cory Dillon, who reached the century mark for the sixth time in the past seven games by rushing 18 times for 100 yards. He banged up his leg in the first half but was able to return.

HARD TO BRING DOWN

"He impresses me more and more each week," Brady said. "He is such a big back and is hard to bring down. We just give him a little crease and he explodes right through it."

Consider that the Patriots won a pair of championships without a consistent running game.

Just think how scary they can be now that they have a punishing one.

Also in the Pats' favour is an easy schedule -- home games against Cincinnati and San Francisco, road dates at Miami and the New York Jets -- that could allow them to win outright and finish 15-1, thereby ensuring a first-round playoff bye and, depending on what the Pittsburgh Steelers do, home field advantage up to the Super Bowl.

The Browns, meanwhile, are a disaster.

Less than a week after the resignation of embattled general manager/coach Butch Davis, injuries to quarterbacks Jeff Garcia and Kelly Holcomb left them relying on rookie Luke McCown. His effectiveness -- or lack thereof -- was reflected on the scoreboard.

"I have known (Browns owner) Randy Lerner a long time and he will rebuild this organization," Brown, a Cleveland alumnus, said. "I am confident he will bring this franchise back."

If so, it will be a long climb up for the 3-9 Browns, a team which has allowed 100 points against in the past two weeks.


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