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MORSE: Observations from the Patriots’ Rout of Cleveland Browns

Mark Morse
Mark Morse on Twitter
1 year ago at 7:55 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots News

MORSE: Observations from the Patriots’ Rout of Cleveland BrownsScott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Did anyone see this one coming?  I didn’t!  In my preview, I thought it would be a close game with the Patriots squeezing out a win.  Cleveland’s 4 turnovers sunk them.  If you go -3 in the turnover battle, you are not going to win many games.  The Browns sold out to stop the run and Zappe burned them.  Cleveland wanted to shut down the run and make the third-string rookie beat them, and beat them he did.

  • Let’s start with the play of Bailey Zappe. He was 24 of 34 (70.5%) for 309 yards, 2 TDs no interceptions.  He was sacked twice, once forcing what was called a fumble.  I didn’t believe it was a fumble because his arm was going forward before Myles Garrett hit his arm.  Bailey used play-action passes early and often.   As I said, the Browns sold out to stop the run, and play action froze the linebackers giving Zappe easy completions.  Several times the Patriots committed unforced penalties which put Zappe in 3rd and long.  This was exactly where Cleveland’s defense wanted him.  This sequence on the 1st drive illustrated what I am talking about.
    • 3rd and 7, a 14-yard completion to Kendrick Bourne for a 1st down;
    • 3rd and 9 after a false start by Trent Brown, 29 yards to Devante Parker for 1st down;
    • 3rd and 7 after an Isaiah Wynn false start, Pass Interference against the Brown covering Jakobi Meyers.  In the past, these types of penalties would kill Patriots’ drives.  Zappe overcame these and they settled for an opening drive FG.
  • I felt this was Davante Parker’s best game. I liked him on the slant passes, taking advantage of his strong hands on these bullet throws.  He had 4 catches on 6 targets for 64 yards.  Curious stats  Meyers 4 catches on 4 targets for 60 yards, Thornton 4 catches on 5 targets for 37 yards and a TD,  Henry 4 catches on 7 targets for 61 yards and a TD, Jonnu Smith 2 catches on 2 targets for 61 yards.  A very even distribution of the ball.  Meyers’s route running is superb.
  • Kyle Dugger had a heck of a game. He led the team with 6 solo tackles and 2 other assists for a total of 8 tackles.  He squelched the opening Cleveland drive with an interception of Jacoby Brissett.
  • The Patriots blitzed Brissett early and often. This must have come from their familiarity and from video study.  The Patriots had 4 sacks and numerous QB hurries.  The Patriots’ pass rush didn’t let Brissett get out of the pocket and hurt them with his legs.  Brissett had run for 112 yards this year coming into the game.  His only carry was the 4th and inches where he was stuffed for no gain.  Outstanding job by the interior defensive line.
  • Deatrich Wise had another strong game with a sack and a pass battered down. He was a force and helped stuff the NFL’s leading rusher Nick Chubb.  He was held to 12 carries for 56 yards and a 4.6 average.  He was averaging 6.1 yards a carry coming into the game.  Once the Patriots got up by two scores, Cleveland was forced to abandon the running game.  Brissett attempted 45 passes and completed 21 (46.6%) without Jonathan Jones who was out for the game.
  • Jack Jones, Myles Bryant, Marcus Jones, and Jalen Mills were excellent all night.  Mills had a nice interception.  As I said in the preview, the Browns WR corps is not very good and Amari Cooper played like a dog according to Greg Bedard.
  • When watching the game I thought there should have been a penalty on the Browns for illegal contact when Hunter Henry was shoved out of the back of the end zone. Henry caught the TD throw but was ruled ineligible because he had stepped out.  However, the official got the call right.  Once Bailey Zappe left the pocket, the illegal contact can’t be called.  Defensive backs are taught to shove players out of bounds.  I will give Cleveland the benefit of the doubt, but that defender had his back to the play and couldn’t have possibly seen Zappe roll right.  Perhaps there was some communication amongst the defenders signaling that Zappe had rolled out.
  • This officiating crew was a very experienced group, with many of them calling multiple Super Bowls. They came in with a reputation for calling everything.  The crew had the 2nd highest number of penalty calls all season.  The Patriots should have known that and that is what was so frustrating seeing those non-play penalties.
  • Loved seeing the big man Carl Davis rambling down the field with the late fumble recovery by Brissett’s strip sack.
  • Bill Belichick downplayed the performance of Bailey Zappe in his post-game press conference. Perhaps he fears a QB controversy.  There were more cases of Zappe Fever reported at Mass General.  Perhaps we need Dr. Fauci to come in and prevent this pandemic before talk radio can stoke the flames into a full-blown controversy.  We are lucky to have a young QB like Zappe that could be shoved into a game and perform as well as he has.  When Brady replaced Bledsoe in 2001, he had a full year of tutelage under Bledsoe and QB coach Dick Rhebein.  Zappe had never taken a snap under center before he played in the Reese’s Senior Bowl after his senior season in college.  His play-action fakes are remarkable considering he has learned that since being drafted by the Patriots in April.
  • We are now 6 games into the season and possess a .500 record.  The offense is coming along and the blocking of the offensive line is a big part of the reason.  It seems the players are more familiar with what the coaches want them to do and their communication is better.  The secondary is much better than anyone thought it would be.
  • However, Isaiah Wynn’s play has dropped again. He had his 8th penalty called on him in his game.  He was also the reason Garrett got in on the strip sack.  Trent Brown also gave up a sack to Garrett.  Wynn was replaced Marcus Cannon.
  • Many want to give credit to Matt Patricia for the 3rd and 10 call of a draw play that resulted in a big TD run by Rhamondre Stevenson. Greg Bedard pointed out that the Patriots called the play and Cleveland went into the perfect defense for that play to work.  All Patricia was really trying to do was to get a few yards for a better FG attempt, the same as any other coach would do in that down-and-distance situation while already in FG range.
  • Have to mention Brenden Schooler’s fumble recovery of a muffed punt. On that play, Matthew Slater made sure the returner couldn’t get back to the ball.  It looked like Schooler had practiced his fumble recovery skills.  I thought it was a nice gesture of Schooler to try and give Coach Belichick the game ball for his 324th career victory.  This ties him for 2nd place with George Halas.  He was having none of it and shushed him away.
  • Isn’t it ironic that Belichick could go ahead of Halas with a win against Halas’ Chicago team next Monday night!
  • Belichick was asked by Scott Zolak why he directed his players to go out to the field before boarding the team buses to leave. He thanked Zolak for asking that question and he went into an elaborate explanation of the importance of Paul Brown, Jim Brown, Ozzie Newsome, Len Ford, and Bill Willis.   All five are in the Cleveland Browns’ ring of honor.  They were pioneers for equality.  Paul Brown was the first to integrate the NFL a full year before Jackie Robinson did for baseball.  Jim Brown is the iconic representative of the Browns with his prolific running ability and toughness.  Now he is known for his push for Equality and Social Justice.  Ozzie Newsome was a terrific player and then the first black General Manager.  He excelled at both and is regarded as the reason the Baltimore Ravens have had such a run of success with great scouting and drafting.  Finally the two other men I admit I had to look up.  They were two of the first black players to play for Cleveland.  Len Ford was an offensive and defensive end.  Bill Willis is credited as being the 1st black player in the NFL since 1933.  There was a gentleman’s agreement not to have black players in the league.  Paul Brown broke that agreement.

Morse’s Morsels

Rookie RBs Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong each got their first carries of their careers.  This draft class is beginning to look like a solid group from top to Bottom.  The only one of the ten draft picks not to make a game-day 46-man roster is Andrew Stueber and he is on the Non-Football Injury list and out for the season.

Mike Reiss floated this as the reason Kevin Harris was elevated to the 53-man roster.  Another team approached him to sign with them on their 53-man roster.

The Patriots were hit with multiple injured players again this week.  Kendrick Bourne had a toe injury.  Hopefully, it’s not Turf Toe.  That is a painful and lingering injury that takes a long time to heal.  Christian Barmore was reported to be playing with a knee injury that he aggravated during the game.  He left on his own power and could also be seen doing some drills on the sideline, but he never returned to the field.  Special Teamer and personal protector Cody Davis had a knee injury, with nothing more to report on him.

Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: Bailey Zappe Cleveland Browns New England Patriots

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