When it comes to football, there are all kinds of clichés that are thrown around.
“Any team can win on any given Sunday”. “The team that wants it more is the one that usually comes away victorious”.
Both of these ended up coming true. The only problem was, the Browns looked like they were the ones who wanted it more, and they ended up being the ones who walked away with a win on Sunday.
For the Patriots, coming into the game all signs pointed to a win. Quarterback Tom Brady had never lost to Cleveland during his tenure as the starting quarterback in New England, and New England was also among the best in the league when it came to playing smart, having committed just six give-aways – second-fewest in the NFL prior to Sunday’s game. So the odds of the Patriots giving this one away also seemed pretty low.
To add to it the Browns also had the 26th ranked pass defense in the NFL, which should have meant that with a quarterback like Brady throwing to guys like Wes Welker and Deion Branch, this should have been the breakout game we’ve been waiting for. All signs pointed to a blowout, which should have seen the Patriots move on to 7-1 on the season.
Well, it was a blowout. Just not in New England’s favor.
By the time this one was over the Patriots were on the wrong end of a 34-14 loss to the Browns in a game that was ugly from the beginning. Any fan that happened to get up to go to the bathroom or get a drink at the start of this one likely came back and couldn’t understand how in the world the Patriots were down 10-0 almost immediately without Tom Brady even touching the football.
The Browns went at them from the first snap and kept up that intensity for the entire contest, leaving most Patriots fans shocked and filled with lingering doubts while wondering what kind of football team we’re going to see heading into the second half of this season.
“We didn’t do any of the things we needed to do to win, and really be competitive, so that was the result of the game,” said Belichick after it was over. “Obviously we have a lot of work to do. I think we’re a better team than we showed today, but we weren’t today. So my hats off to them, they did a good job, they were clearly the better team.”
Most fans wouldn’t exactly call Cleveland, “the better team”, but they played like they certainly didn’t plan on just rolling over and letting Brady have his way with them. Having had two weeks to prepare, head coach Eric Mangini told the media after the game that the plan was to not give Brady much to make his pre-snap reads from, and to try and confuse him as much as possible.
It worked. Brady seemed off balance for much of the game and the Patriots couldn’t get much going and had trouble trying to sustain the majority of the their drives. They finished a dismal 3-of-11 on third down, and Brady said after the game that there’s no specific area they can target to work on, other than just trying to execute better.
“I’d like to think that we have guys that can make a bunch of plays out there, and we certainly make a lot of plays out there, we just don’t do it consistently enough,” said Brady. “That’s the frustrating part, is we do it right once, next time it comes up we don’t do it right. That’s something that leads to 3-and-outs, it leads to not being able to sustain drives, and that’s what we all have to do a better job of.”
Meanwhile on the other side of the ball, we saw Browns rookie QB Colt McCoy play with the same fire and intensity that fans here in New England saw from Brady back in 2001. His touchdown run late in the third quarter that put the Browns up 24-7 saw the rookie fire up his team with his sheer determination, and it gave Cleveland the spark they needed to close this one out.
You could see the Browns rally around him, and while Brady remembers what it was like when he took over New England’s offense, he was in his second year and at least had a full season to get acclimated before he came in and worked his magic. McCoy is in his first year, and is already giving Cleveland fans a reason to believe that the Browns are on the verge of something special.
“He did a great job,” said Brady. “I’ve been in that spot, never as a rookie like he is, but he’s obviously doing the right thing out there. He’s getting the ball to the right guys, making accurate throws. He did a great job.”
Patriots Head coach Bill Belichick likely knows his team faces a tough road after this one. (FILE:Icon/SMI)
McCoy was very Brady-esque – and he sends New England home at 6-2 and searching for an identity as the Patriots now face the daunting task of facing Pittsburgh next weekend. While it’s just one loss, they went from being the best team in the NFL to wondering just how good they really are. Losses like this generally tend to be a problem because other teams will likely use this game as a blueprint of how to cause problems for Belichick’s team for the rest of the year.
There’s still plenty of football left, but if ever there was a loss that should be considered a wake-up call, this was definitely it. How they respond over the final eight games will determine the direction that this team is headed in, and the road isn’t going to get any easier. They face Pittsburgh next week and Indianapolis the week after. If ever there was a chance to drop three in a row, this would be the time – and that’s something that most fans have to hope doesn’t happen.
“It’s week 8, and we’ve got a lot of work ahead,” said Brady. “I don’t think we’re a finished product right now.”
“There’s a lot of plays that I wish we would have done better and I think as a group we all have to understand what we need to do better individually and then go out there and get to work, get back to practicing better. I mean if we play the way we played today we’re not going to beat anybody.”