The Patriots suffered a tough loss to the Browns in Cleveland 34-14 on Sunday. New England was beaten in every phase of the game, and I don’t think there are many positives to take away from this game if you are a Patriots fan.

So what did we learn from watching the game Sunday?

I think the first thing we learned is that the Browns are an up and coming team. I watched a team that is taking their first steps back to being a respected franchise.

I think we also saw what two weeks of preparation can do against an opponent that the coaches know very well.  The Browns were ready to play and you have to give credit to Eric Mangini and his coaching staff. When you’re a head coach and all three coordinators have coached under Belichick, I feel you have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the Patriots.

I also think we learned that emotion is still a major part of the game. The Browns and their fans were fired up in this game and it showed from the opening kickoff. Unfortunately for Patriots fans, New England came out flat and got behind quickly. By not matching the intensity of their opponent, the Patriots put themselves in a disadvantage the entire game and fell into a hole they couldn’t dig their way out of.

The Browns offense really surprised me. The unit that deserves the most credit on offense for the Browns has to be the offensive line. They opened up holes in for Peyton Hillis to run, and they did a great job protecting Colt McCoy who was very efficient. He was 14-of-19 for 174 yards, but Hillis was the biggest story – running for 184 yards on 29 carries. This unit was dominating yesterday.

The Browns defense also did a nice job against the Patriots offense and they certainly made plays when they needed to. They forced a Rob Gronkowski fumble near the endzone at the very end of the first half, and that play completely changed the momentum. But, the real story was the play of this unit in passing situations. Tom Brady had a very hard time finding open receivers.   One thing Mangini mentioned after the game is that defensively they did their best to show Brady as little as possible before the snap, making it tough for him to make his pre-snap reads.  It worked out well, and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan deserves a lot of credit in making Brady’s day rough by his standards.

For the Patriots I have a hard time mentioning anything positive. On defense, Hillis was able to run in between the tackles at will. It looked like the defenders were there to make the tackle, but Hillis seemed to always find a way to get more yardage. In the passing game, The Patriots made McCoy look like Brady. McCoy seemed to always be able to find the open receiver, and when they did catch it, the Browns receivers actually held on to the ball.

This loss was as bad of a defeat that I have seen since last year against the Saints. The Patriots were hardly competitive in the second half.

As I always do, I like to look back at my keys to victory to see what kind of role they played in the game.  Below is my analysis of ” My Five Keys To Victory For the Patriots Against The Browns “.

1. The Patriots need to contain Peyton Hillis. Well, since Hillis ran for a career high 184 yards it is pretty obvious the Pats did not do a very good job in containing him, and he was very impressive. He runs hard, and New England had a very hard time getting him down. With his running, the Browns were really able to control the game.    

2. The Patriots need to confuse Colt McCoy on defense. The Patriots defense definitely failed in this key. McCoy was having a pretty easy time finding open receivers against the Pats defense.

3. Tom Brady needs to victimize the secondary of the Browns. Brady had a rough outing, and a very hard time finding open receivers. What made matters worse is there were several drops in this game. Brady was 19-36 for 224 yards and 2 touchdowns, but the statistics don’t tell you how poorly Brady actually played.

4.  The Patriots Special teams need to contain Joshua Cribbs. Cribbs actually got the ball rolling with a nice return to start the game. He wasn’t a huge factor beyond that return. This key had a minimal impact on the game.

5. The Patriots need to limit their own turnovers. This is the key that really hurt the Patriots on Sunday. The Pats fumbled on a kick-off early in the game which led to a Browns touchdown. Then Patriots Ron Gronkowski also fumbled close to the goal line at the end of the first half. If the Patriots scored at that point, we could be talking about a different result. Turnovers destroyed the Patriots on Sunday.

So what did we learn from this game? I think we learned that the Patriots are still a young team, and it shouldn’t be a shock to see a bad performance this season. I have maintained not to get too high or low after a game. This is one game and is not a trend yet. Before any long term judgements are made, just remember what their record is now. The Patriots are still 6-2 and have had two bad losses, but they’ve shown plenty of upside in several of their wins. Needless to say this is still a team that is a work in progress.

Instead of thinking the sky is falling, I am feeling that the credit for this game has to go to the Browns. Maybe they are much better than most think.   

What are your reactions to the game?  Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you thought of New England’s 34-14 loss to the Browns.