FOXBORO, Mass. -- After conquering their nervousness, the Cleveland Browns replacement players Sunday completed their dream of playing in the NFL with a 20-10 comeback victory over the New England Patriots.
Larry Mason ran for 133 yards and scored twice on 1-yard plunges in the fourth quarter as the Browns rallied from a 10-0 halftime deficit.
Cleveland lost three fumbles in the first half but 'as soon as we relaxed we played well as a team,' said Mason.
Overall there was a lot of enthusiasm and it was enough to overcome less than perfect execution,' Cleveland Coach Marty Schottenheimer said of his free-agent team.
The crowd appeared to be smaller than the 14,830 announced by the Patriots. The one-time sellout had 34,780 tickets returned and 10,501 tickets were not used.
The Patriots fumbled on the first, third and sixth plays of the game, and a potential pass interception was dropped by the Browns on the fourth play from scrimmage. All three fumbles were made byrunning back Tony Collins, a regular and the first Patriot player to break the strike. The Patriots recovered twice and the third fumble was negated by a penalty.
New England, which had five returning union players on the field, finished with five fumbles and lost one. Collins, New England's leading rusher for the season with a 4.0 average coming into the game, finished with only 24 yards on 15 carries.
None of Cleveland's regular players broke the strike.
'I couldn't run, everything was off,' Collins said. 'I was pretty disappointed with my performance.'
'The game was frustrating,' New England Coach Raymond Berry said. 'I thought we would execute better. The players knew what to do but they just didn't get it done.'
New England gained only 31 yards rushing on 27 carries and failed on all 13 third-down conversions.
Mason, 26, was among the final players cut after the Browns summer training camp. The 5-foot-11 running back, who carried 32 times, attended Troy St. in Alabama. After being waived by the Miami Dolphins, he played two seasons with the USFL's Jacksonville Bulls.
In the third quarter, Brian Franco kicked field goals of 28 and 21 yards before Mason's two touchdowns.
On the extra point try after Mason's first score, a bad snap resulted in holder Dale Walters running to his left and completing a pass to Chris Kelley who was alone in the end zone.
The quality of play improved substantially from the first half to the second.
Approximately 25 striking Patriots players picketed peacefully for more than four hours before the kickoff. Representatives from more than six other unions joined the picket lines.
Scoring for New England in the second quarter were Eric Schubert on a 23-yard field goal and Larry Linne on a 6-yard touchdown pass from starting quarterback Bob Bleier.
Guard Ron Wooten, who broke ranks with his teammates but did not play due to a sprained knee and sprained ankle, said, 'the kids have only been with us for a short time, and it hurt us. Today's loss was devastating when you're talking about playoffs.'
Patriots General Manager Patrick Sullivan said he expects the majority of striking Patriots to return by the middle of the week.