FOXBORO, Mass., Dec. 9 (UPI) -- Troy Brown returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown and had a hand in his team's other four scores Sunday as the New England Patriots defeated the Cleveland Browns, 27-16.
Antowain Smith added a pair of short touchdown runs and Adam Vinatieri kicked two field goals for New England (8-5), which claimed its third straight win to move within a game of Miami (8-3) for first place in the AFC East. Miami hosts Indianapolis on Monday night.
Cleveland (6-6) was within four points with more than 12 1/2 minutes left, but hurt its postseason chances with its second straight loss.
Terry Glenn, who holds New England's single-season records in catches and receiving yards for wideouts, returned from a hamstring injury that led to a circus-like atmosphere in New England.
Picking up the slack in his absence was Brown, who had more catches than Glenn last season and added to his career-best totals Sunday.
"I think Troy is a good football player," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who guided the Browns for five seasons before they moved to Baltimore. "He was pretty good when I was here in '96, but I really think he's gotten a lot better."
Brown had his biggest impact on special teams, fueling the win by matching the second-longest punt return for a score in team history.
With the game tied at 10-10, Brown caught the ball at his own 15-yard line, picked up two blocks and raced untouched to the end zone with 3:28 left in the first half.
Just before Brown reached midfield, Pro Bowl safety Lawyer Milloy erased an unsuspecting Dwayne Rudd and rookie defensive tackle Richard Seymour flattened punter Chris Gardocki.
"I saw Lawyer coming and he got a good block on him, and the next person I saw was Richard Seymour just creaming the kicker, and it was free sailing from there," Brown said.
Brown added key grabs to set up a pair of field goals in the first half and a one-yard touchdown run by Smith in the second quarter. He also returned a punt 20 yards shortly before Smith's five-yard touchdown run in the fourth.
"It's not surprising to us when we see him out there, seeing him do the things he's been doing," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. "He's so dependable and consistent, and that's what you look for in a football player."
Brown finished with seven catches for 89 yards, giving him career-high totals of 85 and 1,033. He is second in the AFC in catches to Jacksonville's Jimmy Smith (87).
"I'm looking forward to finishing the season out strong and whatever happens, happens," Brown said. "Individual statistics, they all come back to your teammates anyway. That's the bottom line."
Glenn has not been much of a teammate this season. Arguably the most talented wideout in franchise history, Glenn played in just his second game, but contributed four catches for 67 yards.
"Terry obviously brings a lot to the game," Brady said of Glenn.
Glenn was suspended the first four games of the season for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy and missed another eight games with a mysterious hamstring injury that had many questioning his future with the team.
But Brady thinks Glenn may be a little misunderstood.
"He enjoys being out there with the guys and being part of the camaraderie of playing football," Brady said. "I'm sure there's a part of him that misses being out there with the guys and winning football games."
Brady completed 19 of 28 passes for 218 yards for the Patriots, who held a 290-277 edge in total offense on a day dominated by the defenses.
Cleveland's unit struck first as cornerback Corey Fuller returned one of Brady's two interceptions 49 yards for a score and a 10-3 lead late in the first quarter.
But Brown had an 18-yard catch on the ensuing possession, which Smith finished with a one-yard run to tie it at 10-10 at 5:21 of the second quarter.
After his punt return for a touchdown, Brown had a 13-yard catch to set up Vinatieri's 38-yard field goal, which made it 20-10 with three seconds left in the first half.
Phil Dawson followed with two of his three field goal for the Browns, but Brown returned a punt 20 yards to the Cleveland 36 and Smith ran 18 and five yards for the game's final score.
"We felt like we were in the game right up until the end," said Browns quarterback Tim Couch, who was 20 of 39 with three interceptions. "But they did a good job every time we got close."
Vinatieri and Dawson exchanged first-quarter field goals. Vinatieri kicked a 54-yarder -- the sixth of his career from 50 yards or more.