FOXBORO, Massachusetts (Ticker) --
? Neither solved Bill Belichick's defense.
Couch threw for just 40 yards before he was knocked out of the game in the second quarter and Holcomb passed for only 115 against Belichick's complex schemes as the
New England Patriots
posted a 9-3 victory over the
accounted for New England's scoring, converting 3-of-4 field goals.
"We knew coming in that Cleveland had one of the best red zone defenses in football so we had a feeling that this game could come down to the kicking game," Vinatieri said. "It's just fortunate that the miss I had didn't make a difference in the outcome of the game."
The win was the fourth in a row for the first-place Patriots (6-2), who have allowed just one touchdown and 22 points in their last three games.
"That was really about the way we expected that game to go," Belichick said of the low-scoring affair played under an occasional drizzle. "Cleveland is a team that has been in a lot of close games."
The Browns (3-5) had won seven of their their last eight road games, dating to last season, but totaled just 13 first downs on Sunday.
"Defensively, you feel like if you can hold people to three field goals, you put yourself in a position to win," said Browns coach Butch Davis.
It marked the second straight time that the Browns lost to a former coach. Last week, Marty Schottenheimer led the
San Diego Chargers
to a 26-20 win at Cleveland.
Belichick coached the Browns from 1991-95 and directed them to just one playoff berth and a 36-44 record. After his tenure in Cleveland, many believed that Belichick would be better off as a defensive coordinator.
But he has proved the critics wrong, leading the Patriots to their first Super Bowl title in franchise history in 2001.
Belichick is now 2-1 against his former team since taking over as Patriots coach, losing 19-11 at Cleveland in November 2000 and beating the Browns, 27-16 here in December 2001.
Despite a lengthy injury list that includes defensive starters
and running back
, the Patriots have won six of their last seven after a season-opening 31-0 loss at Buffalo.
was the beneficiary of Belichick's multiple fronts and disguised coverages, recording three of New England's four sacks.
"We put a lot into this game," Vrabel said. "We worked all week on trying to confuse whatever quarterback was in the game."
Couch left the game in the second quarter with a sprained right thumb after being hit by Patriots defensive tackle
. He completed 7-of-11 passes for 40 yards.
"They played a lot of different looks, got into some different schemes," Couch said. "They do things to challenge you mentally."
Holcomb directed the Browns' lone scoring drive on his first series, which resulted in a 29-yard field goal by
with 24 seconds left in the half.
But Holcomb failed to lead the Browns past midfield in the second half and finished 15-of-25 for 115 yards with an interception.
"I got confused a couple of times," Holcomb said. "It's an emotional game and I got emotional out there. We just didn't make the plays when we needed to."
The interception came on Cleveland's final possession when cornerback
for a 30-yard pass at the New England 25 with 51 seconds left in the game to seal the win.
Last week, Holcomb replaced an ineffective Couch and threw for a pair of touchdowns in the loss to San Diego.
threw for 259 yards against the NFL's No. 1 pass defense and
rushed for a career-high 96 yards, yet the Patriots were unable to get into the end zone.
The Browns played without leading rusher
, who was sidelined with a bruised shoulder.
filled in for Green and rushed for 71 yards on 15 carries.
Smith missed his third straight game with a shoulder injury, but Faulk stepped in again and carried the ball 23 times.
Vrabel sacked Couch for a 13-yard loss on Cleveland's first possession. After the Patriots took over near midfield, Brady hit rookie
with a 45-yard pass to the Cleveland 6. However, after Brady was called for intentional grounding, the Patriots had to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Vinatieri 3:14 into the game.
With Couch at the controls, the Browns went three-and-out on their first three possessions, managed two first downs on their fourth and one first down on their fifth, but never passed midfield. After completing a short pass to tight end
, Couch injured his thumb after getting hit by Green.
Brady hit tight end
with two passes for 45 yards to set up a 48-yard field goal attempt, but Vinatieri hooked it wide left with 3:20 left in the half.
Graham, a first-round pick in 2002, finished with career-highs of seven catches for 110 yards
Holcomb took over after the missed field goal and completed 7-of-10 passes for 54 yards to set up Dawson's field goal.
The Patriots snapped the tie with an eight-play, 70-yard drive in the third quarter. Brady connected with Graham on a 38-yard play before Faulk caught a seven-yard pass and produced 25 yards on four carries. That set up a tie-breaking 28-yard field goal by Vinatieri with 3:36 left in the third quarter.
"We had to keep fighting the whole way," Faulk said. "I credit our defense for every game we play because they play hard every play. They had a good game plan for us as well."
Faulk rushed for 24 yards on seven carries and Brady hit
with a 10-yard pass to set up Vinatieri's third field goal - a 38-yarder with 2:05 left in the game to give the Patriots a 9-3 lead.
With a minute left, Holcomb hit
with a 16-yard pass to the Cleveland 45. But on the next play, Holcomb lofted a ball down the right side for
, but Law made a leaping interception.
"It was one of those plays at the end of the game," Law said. "I took the guy (Johnson) closest to me because everything was moving so fast because they were in a two-minute mode. The ball was up there and I just reacted. I was just happy to make the play to help preserve what is a very important win for us."