CLEVELAND (AP) — Another win in the books, Tom Brady jogged off the field as he’s done so many times before.
As the Patriots fans who invaded Cleveland cheered and chanted his name, Brady waved and smiled before heading into the locker room and celebrating with his teammates.
His eyes only focused forward, he savored every second.
He missed this.
“I’m back doing what I love to do,” he said.
Looking razor-sharp at times and relatively rust-free after serving his four-game “Deflategate” suspension, Brady passed for 406 yards and threw three touchdowns to Martellus Bennett in his hyped return as the Patriots thumped the Cleveland Browns 33-13 on Sunday.
New England’s star quarterback was back — much to the relief of teammates and Patriots fans everywhere — following a ban for his role in the scandal in which an NFL investigation found that the four-time Super Bowl champion Patriots under-inflated footballs in the 2015 AFC championship game.
Brady fought Commissioner Roger Goodell’s ruling for more than a year before he begrudgingly accepted his punishment.
And while it appeared he took out some frustration on the Browns (0-5), Brady insisted he’s not seeking revenge.
“This isn’t a time for me to reflect,” he said. “There’s no point at looking back at anything. Whether we won Super Bowls or lost championship games or the last four weeks, none of it matters.
“I’ve just moved on, man.”
Brady passed for 271 yards in the first half as the Patriots (4-1) rebounded from a stinging shutout last week at home to Buffalo.
Brady threw two short TD passes in the first half to Bennett before hooking up with his new teammate on a 37-yarder to give the Patriots a 30-7 lead in the third.
He thoroughly enjoyed his return, even posing like Olympic track star Usain Bolt after a 4-yard run to signal for a first down.
“I don’t run much, and when I do I get excited,” he said, smiling.
Coach Bill Belichick replaced Brady with 6:02 left, greeting him on the sideline with a handshake and pat on the back.
The 39-year-old was far from perfect, overthrowing Julian Edelman for a possible long TD, but Brady spread the ball around and showed a nice touch on a few passes, including a floater to Rob Gronkowski for 37 yards in the fourth.
“We hadn’t seen him in a while,” said Edelman, Brady’s teammate for eight seasons who was not surprised by the performance.
“You train with a guy. You go to camp with a guy. You’ve played a number of years with a guy. To see what he’s gone through, you’re going to get excited.”
Following the game, Brady basked in the adulation from the Patriots fans ringing the entrance to the tunnel, Following his news conference, Brady stylish as always in a blue tailored suit, posed for a few photos with fans before he was greeted by friends, including former Browns tight end Aaron Shea, who threw his arms around his Michigan teammate.
LeGarrette Blount added a 1-yard score for the Patriots, who all drew inspiration from Brady’s return.
“We were all intense today, all amped up,” said Gronkowski, who had five catches for 109 yards. “Tom always brings the ampness to the table.”
Unfortunately for the Browns, a rebuilding season is spiraling out of control.
Cleveland has dropped seven straight and 14 of 15, and Browns coach Hue Jackson is running out of quarterbacks after rookie Cody Kessler was knocked out in the first half with rib and chest injuries. Charlie Whitehurst replaced him, becoming the fifth quarterback to play for Cleveland in five games.
When Brady ran onto the field for New England’s first play, thousands of fans, many wearing his No. 12 jersey, cheered.
At that moment, all was right again from Cambridge to Maine’s coastline.
Brady completed his first pass to his favorite target, Edelman, and connected twice on New England’s opening drive with Gronkowski, who sidestepped a couple of tacklers and looked like the indomitable “Gronk” while bulling his way to the Cleveland 1.
It was a new beginning, a fresh start for Brady, who found comfort after so many months of angst.
“It was fun to come out and play and fun to win,” he said. “That’s the most important thing.”
Kessler took a hard shot from Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower while trying to throw a swing pass to Duke Johnson at the Cleveland 10.
The pass was behind Johnson and skipped out of the end zone, giving the Patriots a safety. Jackson said Kessler did not break anything and his status will be addressed in the next few days.
Charlie Whitehurst played the second half, but sustained a knee injury in the final minutes.
Patriots rookie cornerback Cyrus Jones was ejected in the third quarter for unsportsmanlike conduct.
A second-round pick from Alabama, Jones got tangled with Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins on the opposite side of the field.
After the game, referee Bill Vinovich said Jones was ejected because “it was deemed that he threw a punch.”
The Patriots held the NFL’s top rushing team to 27 yards on 22 carries. Cleveland came in leading the NFL with 149.3 yards rushing.
Isaiah Crowell picked up just 22 on 13 attempts, a far cry from 6.4-yard average in Cleveland’s first four games.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL
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