The Patriots are in an envious position right now because they have two quarterbacks who can play, while many teams don’t even have one. Bailey Zappe was, just a few weeks ago, a 4th round rookie, 3rd string QB. Now, he’s won his first two starts with a QB rating of over 100.
Zappe played very well again in the Patriots’ 38-15 win over the Browns. Not bad for a kid whose drafting was questioned as to why the Patriots needed to draft a QB so high…the answer to that is what has transpired the past two weeks.
The Patriots’ defense again rose to the occasion. After being gashed by the Ravens and the Packers, they slowed down a Detroit team last week, averaging 164 yards per game and 5.9 yards per carry. Detroit averaged just 3.7 yards per rush. This week, the Browns’ offense came in averaging a whopping 192 yards on the ground. The defense allowed just 70. Cleveland didn’t score a touchdown until the fourth quarter.
So, here are our grades this week for the Patriots-Browns game.
Zappe used play-action like a seasoned pro this week, as he sucked up Cleveland’s linebackers time and again as they sold out to stop the run. The Browns tried to force the game into Zappe’s hands on Sunday, and that backfired on them…badly.
Zappe once again showed a ton of poise, completing 24-34 passes for 309 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, and a 118.4 passer rating. His touchdown pass to Tyquan Thornton was IMO the best play he made all day. He ran through his first two progressions, which were covered. He then remained cool, set himself in the pocket by sliding forward, and found Thornton, who used his speed to pull away from the defender. It was a great play by both rookies and put the Patriots up 17-6.
It wasn’t perfect, he made some mistakes and missed throws that should have been made, but overall, it was another excellent performance by the rookie. If Mac Jones does return next Monday night, then Zappe acquitted himself proudly in the way he filled in for both Jones and Brian Hoyer.
Running Backs: B
With Damien Harris out with a hamstring issue, the onus fell on Rhamondre Stevenson and two rookies, Kevin Harris, and Pierre Strong. The Browns tried to stuff the Patriots’ running game all day long, and for the most part, they succeeded.
But Stevenson made plays, including a 31-yard touchdown right before the half to give the Patriots a 10-3 lead. The team faced a 3rd and 10, which Matt Patricia called a draw play. Cleveland was coming after Zappe, and once Stevenson broke through the line, with help from Michael Onwenu and Hunter Henry, there was a lot of green in front of him.
Stevenson ended up with 19 carries for 76 yards, a 4.0-yard average, two TDs, a 31-yarder, and a score from the Browns’ six-yard line to finish the scoring.
Harris and Strong got a few carries and gained some valuable experience.
Wide Receivers: B+
DeVante Parker began with an excellent catch of 29 yards in a leaping 50/50 ball that was exactly the reason the Patriots drafted him. Even better was the fact that it was on third and nine and moved the team into scoring position. He finished with four catches for 64 yards.
Jakobi Meyers had four catches for 60 yards as well. Kendrick Bourne had one catch for 17 yards but left the game with a toe injury.
Rookie Tyquan Thornton had a breakout game catching four passes for 37 yards and a touchdown. He also added a touchdown run of 19 yards on a Jet Sweep that showcased his speed as he blew past the surprised Browns’ defenders untouched.
Tight Ends: A-
The tight ends had their best day by far this season, combining for six catches for 122 yards and a touchdown. And with the Patriots’ offense, they need a productive tight end group. I wrote in my keys to the game that I thought Hunter Henry was primed for a big game.
And he did. Henry caught four passes for 61 yards, including a nice 31-yard touchdown pass from Zappe. Henry put a nice move on Grant Delpit off the line and Delpit lost his footing, and Henry was all alone for a too-easy score.
Jonnu Smith caught two passes for 61 yards, including a highlight reel 53-yard catch and run that took a lot of frustration from his Patriots’ tenure. He made a nice adjustment to the pass, which was slightly behind him, and then broke a tackle before getting off the races.
Offensive Line: B-
The offensive line was difficult to get a feel for this week. Granted, Cleveland was selling out to stop the run, but for much of the game, the Patriots’ OL wasn’t getting much of a push up front. But in the end, they were able to generate a couple of big plays and ended up with over 100 yards rushing before Zappe’s kneel downs at the end of the game as well as three rushing touchdowns.
The pass protection was good, although Zappe was getting rid of the ball in just 2.8 seconds. Myles Garrett beat each tackle for a sack, but he does that to most teams. The issue was penalties once again. Both Trent Brown and Isaiah Wynn had false starts on the game’s opening drive. Of the Patriots’ 12 penalties, nine of them were on the offense.
Wynn was replaced by Marcus Cannon, who also served as an extra tight end. Overall it was a productive day for the offense, and while they allowed just the two sacks and one QB hit, they were not at their best.
Defensive Line: A-
The Patriots made a concerted effort to slow down the Browns’ rush offense on Sunday, and they did an outstanding job. Cleveland had been averaging 192 yards per game on the ground. Nick Chubb was averaging 6.1 yards per rush coming into the game.
Playing excellent team defense upfront, Davon Godchaux, Carl Davis, Christian Barmore, and Deatrich Wise were stout, holding Cleveland to just 70 yards total rushing. Chubb was held to just 56 yards on 12 carries, with a couple of big rushes at garbage time with the Patriots playing soft coverage.
Wise got a sack of Brissett, Davis scooped up a fumble, and nearly scored a touchdown rumbling for 17 yards.
Last week I wrote that the needle for this group is trending up. And they had another outstanding effort in limiting Cleveland’s running game. Matthew Judon chipped in with a couple of run stuffs and a QB hit.
Ja’Whaun Bentley had a big hand in Jalen Mills’ interception as he blitzed up the middle and hit Brissett, forcing the throw off the mark that Mills picked out and returned. Anfernee Jennings and Mack Wilson combined for a sack. Jennings logged three QB hits, tops on the team.
Against power running teams, Jahlani Tavai has shown his worth as he’s been on the field more than any of the other linebackers the past two games.
The Patriots’ secondary was competitive all day, and on Cleveland’s second play from scrimmage, Kyle Dugger picked off Brissett, who was attempting to go deep to Pharaoh Brown. It set the tone for the entire game as the group had two interceptions and could have possibly had a few more. They were around the ball all game with tight coverage.
Rookies Jack and Marcus Jones both played well. Marcus nearly had a pick, breaking on the ball but couldn’t stay in bounds. Mills added the interception that was mentioned above.
On the day, Brissett completed less than 50 percent of his pass (21-45) with just a late touchdown and two picks for a passer rating of just 54.5.
Special Teams: B+
Nick Folk is human, after all. After converting 64 straight field goals (an NFL record) inside of 50 yards, Folk missed his second FG attempt of the day. But he was also 5-5 on extra-point attempts. Jake Bailey dropped three of his five punts inside the 20-yard line.
Marcus Jones was solid on punt returns averaging 11.7 yards per return but couldn’t get much going on kickoff returns. The coverage units were solid. The play of the day for the STs units was when Matthew Slater and Brenden Schooler combined to recover the muffed punt by the Browns. It was Schooler’s second recovery of the season.
The Patriots coaches once again had an excellent game plan defensively and executed it flawlessly. They took the Browns right out of their comfort zone offensively and held them out of the end zone until the fourth quarter.
Offensively, the Browns took the Patriots out of their zone by stuffing the running game, but Matt Patricia was prepared and Zappe torched the Browns with play-action passing.
Bill Belichick elevates the grade a bit by winning his 324th game as a head coach, tying George Halas. He can break the tie against Halas’ team next Monday night.
We’re on to the Bears…
Posted Under: Patriots Report Card
Tags: Amari Cooper Bill Belichick Christian Barmore Cleveland Browns Damien Harris Davon Godchaux Devante Parker Devin McCourty Jack Jones Jakobi Meyers Jakoby Meyers Jalen Mills Kareem Hunt Kendrick Bourne Mac Jones Marcus Jones Myles Garrett New England Patriots NFL Nick Chubb Patriots edge rushers Rhamondre Stevenson Tyquan Thornton