Patriots Demolishing of the Browns Was Complete
The Patriots took the Cleveland Browns to the woodshed on Sunday afternoon in Gillette, scoring 45 unanswered points against one of the better defenses in the NFL. They dominated this game from start to finish and there were very few negative plays on the field to talk about, which will no doubt infuriate the “yeah but” dolts that seem to always look for a black cloud in every victory.
The defense got off to a rocky start, yes, playing nickel, the Browns gashed them for an average of more than 11.5 yards per carry, scoring a touchdown on a fourth and goal to take a 7-0 lead. After that? Zip, zilch, nada. The defense stuffed the run and hounded Baker Mayfield all game long, blanketing his receivers and bringing pressure.
The Patriots offense, (and yes the play-calling of Josh McDaniels) was damned near perfect in this game. Facing the 3rd best rush defense (84 yards per game, 3.4 yards per rush), the Pats scored nearly every time they had the ball and had three touchdown drives of 90+ yards. Mac Jones was brilliant and the running game skewered the Browns for 184 yards. That is domination folks…Yeah but…my butt.
So, here are our positional grades this week for the Patriots-Browns game. And they’re among the easiest we’ve had here in a long time.
Mac Jones was “en fuego” on Sunday. He completed 19-23 for 198 yards with 3 TDs, 0 INTs for a passer rating of 142.1, the highest of his young career. And he sat for more than half of the 4th quarter because the team was so far ahead.
Facing a tough Browns defense, on the first two drives, Jones faced a 3rd and 5 or longer five times and converted all five with throws to his receivers. He neutralized the pass rush (except for one mistake) by getting the ball out quickly and accurately.
He showed nice touch on his first touchdown throw to Hunter Henry, dropping it right into his hands for an easy touchdown. His second TD pass to Kendrick Bourne was a 23-yard fastball perfectly placed between two defenders where he looked…dare I say it, positively “Brady-esque”. He made another nice throw on his 2nd TD pass to Henry, looking off the free safety and delivering it to Henry when he juked the safety and broke inside.
It was Jones’ first 3TD game of his career and his best performance thus far.
Rhamondre Stevenson was questionable to even play on Sunday after he didn’t practice all week, languishing in the concussion protocol. But he was cleared to play and then gave the Browns a massive headache all afternoon.
Stevenson rushed 20 times for 100 yards scoring 2 TDs and added 14 more on 4 catches for his best game as a pro. He runs with excellent power and the ability to make people miss, which is difficult for a big man. He’s getting better in the passing game and he’s taking care of the ball.
Brandon Bolden got a big heap of praise from Bill Belichick after the game, and with good cause, he’s filling in quite well for James White as the team’s 3rd down back and chipped in with 3 catches for 38 yards. He carried the ball just 3 times but gained 32 yards for a 70-yard combined day. Not too shabby for just 7 touches.
The wide receivers had themselves a very good day on Sunday through the air, on the ground, and blocking. “Yeah but…they only had 11 catches, Mike!” Those 11 catches went for 194 yards on just 13 targets.
Kendrick Bourne had a big day catching 4 passes on 4 targets for 98 yards including that highlight-reel 23-yard touchdown strike from Jones with a great catch between two defenders. He added 43 yards on 3 rushes. Jakobi Meyers added 4 catches on 4 targets (are we seeing a trend here?) for 49 yards including his first (finally) TD of his NFL career. Nelson Agholor had 2 catches on 4 targets for 21 yards and drew a couple of pass interference penalties on the defense.
N’Keal Harry made a nice over-the-shoulder grab for 26 yards on his only target but was immense as a blocker in the running game. He flattened Myles Garrett on Stevenson’s first touchdown run, springing him in.
With Jonnu Smith sidelined with a shoulder injury, the onus fell on Hunter Henry to provide Jones his safety valve as well as his biggest red-zone target. And he delivered again. Henry finished with four catches for 37 yards including two touchdowns. The first was a really nice fade route and a perfectly thrown ball by Jones.
The second was a great play by Henry where he juked the safety and ran a skinny post that was an easy pitch and catch for the score. His best catch was another over-the-shoulder dime by Jones where Henry made a diving catch along the sideline.
He and Jones are developing quite the chemistry together and it is nice to see. It is no coincidence that the Patriots’ red-zone numbers have been climbing since those two are hooking up regularly. The two scores give Henry 7 on the year.
The offensive line welcomed Trent Brown back from IR. and then pounded a very good Browns run defense for 184 yards and 5.4 yards per rush, a full 2 yards more than Cleveland allowed on average.
The pass protection was very good, helped by Jones’ quick release. Of the two sacks, one was on Jones, although Isaiah Wynn mainly whiffed on his cut block, Jones held the ball too long. The unit is coming together at the perfect time, although there were a couple of penalties, going against the Browns, this was an impressive performance.
The defense and the DL got gashed on Cleveland’s first series allowing 58-yards on the ground but they made their adjustments and were outstanding after that, shutting down the running game and bringing pressure on Baker Mayfield.
After that first drive where the Pats were in nickel, D’Ernest Johnson averaged 11.6 yards per carry, the Patriots switched to a base 3-4 and Johnson rushed for only 41 yards on 15 carries (2.7 yards per carry) the rest of the day.
Deatrich Wise had a strong game logging 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble, his roughing the passer penalty was a bit iffy, but it is what it is. Lawrence Guy and Christian Barmore were very solid on the day
The linebackers had arguably their best game of the season and they adjusted after Cleveland’s first drive by bringing in Ja’Whaun Bentley who responded with a big game. Bentley was blowing up plays against a stellar OL of Cleveland time after time. When the backers are playing downhill, like against the Browns’ running game, is when they are at their best and Sunday was one of those days.
Bentley had a huge run stuff for a loss that ended a drive but he played immensely all game long.
Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy brought pressure and the Browns struggled to contain Matthew Judon, who was vocal all day long about being held.
A dominating performance by the Patriots’ secondary on Sunday. Jarvis Landry and David Njoku were rendered to the back of a milk carton as the two combined for just 5 catches for 36 yards. Cleveland was held overall to just 118 yards net passing which is an outstanding effort.
Baker Mayfield time after time had nowhere to go with the ball, the television All-22 constantly showed the Patriots blanketing Cleveland’s receivers. Kyle Dugger had one INT, and the team could have had a few others, Devin McCourty just missed a one-handed pick in the end zone, the Browns scored one play later or the score may have been a whitewash. Dugger just missed another pick and J.C. Jackson dropped another.
The Patriots’ coaching staff aced the test this week. Josh McDaniels called an outstanding game. The Browns’ very good defense didn’t stop the NE offense all day and besides being 7-9 on 3rd downs, they were 5-6 in the red zone. Belichick raved about McDaniels during his Friday press conference…sounds like they were a confident bunch heading into this one.
Defensively, the Patriots made adjustments quickly after Cleveland’s first possession and totally shut them down after that. Great game plan, even better execution.
We’re on to the Falcons on the road in a short week.
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