FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP)—The Patriots have had plenty to celebrate this season. Junior Seau finally gave in to the temptation.
Now he’s ready to pay the price.
In a move more suited to an 18-year-old college player than an 18-year veteran like Seau, he raised the ball high while returning an interception in Sunday’s 34-17 win over the Cleveland Browns, New England’s fifth one-sided win in five games this season.
“It was a fun time and, obviously, I’m going to get reprimanded,” Seau said.
He had two of New England’s three interceptions and Tom Brady threw for three touchdowns, tying an NFL record with at least three in each of his first five games. The Patriots became the fourth team to start a season with five wins by at least 17 points, although Sunday’s margin was their smallest.
Coach Bill Belichick, an anti-showboating advocate, finds mistakes to correct no matter how well the Patriots play. All he has to do this time is watch the play by Seau, who actually thought about lateraling.
“Coach wouldn’t have liked that either,” he said. “So I didn’t want to have two whammies in one play.”
Belichick, for the most part, loves Seau as a player.
“Junior adds a lot of energy to our defense,” he said, but “I don’t know what Junior is thinking sometimes.”
Cleveland tight end Kellen Winslow thinks the Patriots are the NFL’s best team.
“They’re great. It’s obvious,” he said. “They’ve won three Super Bowls.”
They improved to 5-0 without a big contribution from Randy Moss, who entered the game as the NFL leader in yards receiving and total touchdowns. He had just three catches for 46 yards.
Former Patriots linebacker Willie McGinest wasn’t excited about his return to his longtime home, especially after falling behind 20-0.
“Who wants to come back to a whupping?” he said as he signed one of his old Patriots jerseys for New England linebacker Tedy Bruschi.
The Patriots never trailed for the fourth game as they moved to 5-0 for the third time in club history.
It shouldn’t be as easy when they visit Dallas next Sunday. But so far, they’ve been behind for just 12:36 this season—and they followed that 7-3 deficit against Buffalo with 35 straight points in a 38-7 win.
The Browns (2-3) had shown promise after years of mediocrity. But they lost running back Jamal Lewis for the game with an injured right foot after he rushed for 11 yards on their first play. Wide receiver Joe Jurevicius hurt his knee. Coach Romeo Crennel gave no prognosis.
“The score affected our play calling more than anything,” Crennel said.
The passing attack couldn’t pick up the slack as Derek Anderson threw three interceptions in the first half, two on consecutive offensive plays by Cleveland, that led to 14 points.
Twice in the fourth quarter, the Browns cut the deficit to 10 points. And twice the Patriots came right back with touchdowns of their own.
“We always feel like it’s tough to stop us unless we stop ourselves,” Watson said.
Three plays after Seau’s flamboyant interception return, Watson’s joyous demonstration wasn’t nearly as risky.
Wide open in the left flat, he caught Brady’s pass at the 8-yard line, jumped at the 1 and landed in the end zone for the first of his two touchdowns. The extra point by Stephen Gostkowski, who had kicked field goals of 20 and 25 yards, made it 20-0 with 1:01 left in the half.
Brady didn’t have to be as brilliant as he was in his first four games, when he completed 79.2 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns and two interceptions. He was a mere 22-for-38 for 265 yards and no interceptions Sunday.
More good news for the Patriots: safety Rodney Harrison returned after a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances, reportedly by using human growth hormone.
And, finally, cornerback Randall Gay stripped Winslow of a reception and returned the fumble 15 yards for a touchdown with 42 seconds left.
But Belichick is bound to find plenty of mistakes to dwell on.
“I guarantee you that he didn’t wait until Monday,” Seau said. “When we were walking off the field, he came and whispered in my ear.”
The Patriots had scored in every quarter this season until being shut out in the third. … Jason Wright gained 59 yards in 15 carries in place of Lewis. … Brady wasn’t sacked for the third game this season and has been sacked only three times.