The Patriots took care of business at home on a very rainy and windy Gillette Stadium on Sunday and went to 8-0 on the season with a 27-13 win over the Cleveland Browns.
Bill Belichick joined the 300 club as today the win was the 300th of his career, the fastest any coach has ever won that many. Belichick was victorious in his 434th game as a head coach. (Hint, that is a pretty darned good winning percentage)
Tom Brady waxed poetic in his praise for Belichick. Asked about the significance of the coach’s 300th win, he had this to say.
“Three hundred wins is pretty spectacular. He’s the best coach of all time and it’s a privilege to play for him for as many years as I have. He’s taught me so much on and off the field, just been a great mentor for me,” Brady said. “
Being here 20 years ago – it was his first year, it was my first year. It’s been a great journey. Just proud of him, everything he’s accomplished. Amazing to think that he coached for another place and they didn’t think he was good enough, and then he comes here and does a great job. It’s a great celebration for him and certainly hard-earned, well-deserved. And the only thing better than 300 is 301. So, we’ll be back at it this week.”
So, while the team is undefeated, they are far from perfect. But the Patriots have a way to bring out the very worst in their opponents and they used the Browns’ many miscues to put this one in the rearview mirror early.
The Patriots defense forced turnovers on three straight offensive snaps by Cleveland to take a 17-0 lead in the first quarter and the Browns could never recover. The first turnover was created on a solid play by Kyle Van Noy and Nick Chubb’s fumble was scooped up by Dont’a Hightower and returned for a touchdown.
The next turnover occurred when Chubb rolled for 44 yards and appeared headed for a touchdown. But Jonathan Jones ran him down and tomahawked the ball out. Devin McCourty recovered for the Patriots at the five-yard line.
The third turnover was perhaps the most bizarre of all. The Browns attempted a shovel pass to Jarvis Landry. Lawrence Guy read the play and got penetration inside and actually made contact with Landry before he was in position. Baker Mayfield should have never attempted the pass and in essence, he passed it right to Guy who had to be the most surprised player in Gillette Stadium.
Not many teams can spot an opponent 17 points on the road and come back to win. Especially with the weather conditions the way they were and facing a defense that has been playing like the Patriots’ have thus far this year.
Cleveland hung around, thanks to the terrific running of Chubb who settled down after his first two miscues and pounded out 131 yards on 20 carries. But the Browns never gave the impression they were seriously threatening to challenge for this game.
Although they made things interesting with a field goal to open the third quarter to make the score 17-10, the Patriots immediately answered with Tom Brady leading the team on an 84-yard drive in seven plays putting them up 24-10 and pretty much putting this one to bed. The key play was a 59-yard pass play from Brady to James White on a 3rd and 10. Brady capped off the drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Julian Edelman, his second touchdown reception of the game.
Baker Mayfield completed 20 of 31 passes for 194 yards with a touchdown and an interception. While it wasn’t his worst game of the season by a long stretch, it wasn’t a great one either. Mayfield broke up a streak of 71 straight points by the Patriots when he connected with Demetrius Harris for a 21-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Harris got by Hightower who tried to play inside leverage. Harris broke for the pylon and Mayfield hit him with a nicely thrown ball. It would be the only touchdown of the game for the Browns.
The Patriots defense held Cleveland to just 13 points and generated another three turnovers while adding five more sacks to their total while scoring another touchdown. It wasn’t perfect there either as Chubb and the ground game gained far too much yardage. But Mayfield and the passing game never got untracked.
Stephon Gilmore and Odell Beckham Jr. were matched up and the talented wide receiver had five catches for 52 yards but 31 of them came late on a deep pass at garbage time when this one was already decided. This match goes to Gilmore. Jarvis Landry led all Browns receivers with 5 catches for 65 yards on 10 targets.
Which brings us to the Patriots offense. The problems at the offensive line with replacements at the center, left tackle, and right guard this week are becoming a show stopper. The running game could muster only 79 yards on 27 carries, a measly 2.9-yard average. This against a team allowing 154 yards per game.
Sony Michel had 74 yards on 21 carries but his yards per carry average suffered late in the game when the Browns knew the Patriots were trying to run out the clock and they stuffed him time and again.
Brady was only sacked three times but the pressure was such that he is forced to get rid of the ball in under two seconds or he’s going to get hit more often than not. The playmakers on offense aren’t the problem. When he did have time to throw, he made nice throws to Edelman for a pair of touchdowns, a nice deep throw to Phillip Dorsett and a really nice seam pass to Ben Watson for 26 yards. The protection has to improve. And the run blocking has to vastly improve.
Newcomer Mohamed Sanu had a pair of catches including a nice first down where he just made it to the sticks before getting popped but was able to hold on to the ball. He’ll get more involved the longer he’s here and learns more of the offense.
In our pregame key matchups, we said that Chubb was the key for the defense and that James White and Edelman were the go-to guys on offense. Edelman had eight catches for 78 yards with two touchdowns. White had four catches for 75 yards on five targets.
So the team moves on to Baltimore “for their first real test” of the season. They’re 8-0 at the halfway point of the season. Unbeaten but hardly perfect. They’ll be taking on a Ravens team that is on their own bye week. They’ll be rested and at home.
So, be forewarned, the airwaves will be filled this week with ways that the Ravens can beat New England and reasons given why you should fear Baltimore. We’ll get into that more as the week goes on.
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