A dominant first quarter propels the Pats past the Browns!

TEAM 1 2 3 4 T
CLE 0 7 7 3 13
NE 17 0 7 3 27

Throughout the season, the Patriots have unquestionably been led by their defense, who have been able to stifle opponents and force them into making costly mistakes. Yesterday’s game against the Cleveland Browns (2-5) was no different, as a dominant start by the Pats’ defense gave the team a lead they would not relinquish, en route to a 27-13 win in sloppy conditions. This victory improved New England to 8-0 on the season, and gives them a 2.5 game cushion in the AFC.

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s game.

1. The Pats’ defense came to play

As I mentioned in the preview for this game, the utter dominance of Bill Belichick’s defense has been questioned by many due to the supposed weakness of their opponents. This media narrative unfortunately took a hit yesterday, as the Pats were able to rattle Baker Mayfield, and neutralize Odell Beckham Jr (due to an incredible performance by Stephon Gilmore). Even though Nick Chubb was able to gash the Patriots for over 131 yards on the ground, the defense was able to force two crucial turnovers that halted any chance of Cleveland gaining momentum. The first turnover took place deep in Cleveland’s territory, when the ball was kicked out of Chubb’s hands by an offensive linemen and returned for a touchdown by Dont’a Hightower. The second turnover occurred when Chubb outmaneuvered most of the Pats’ defense and appeared to be on his way to end zone, when Jonathan Jones caught up to him and punched the ball out of his hands, forcing a fumble that was ultimately recovered by Devin McCourty. Mayfield also threw an interception, which occurred when Lawrence Guy broke through the line of scrimmage and caught a shovel pass that appeared to be intended for Jarvis Landry. Guy’s interception has to be one of the most bizarre plays of the year, and was also the first interception of his career.

https://twitter.com/FTBVids1/status/1188562515325669377

Ironically, these three turnovers happened on consecutive plays in the first quarter, which helped give the Pats a 17-0 lead.

Even though the Pats did emerge victorious, they need to work on their rushing defense, as Cleveland’s offensive line was able to effectively clear paths for Chubb to run through. If New England wants to make a deep run this year, they will need to shore up the line of scrimmage to prevent opponents from running through them, which could wear them down, and keep Tom Brady & the offense off the field for long periods of time.

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(Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

2. Another inconsistent performance by the offense

Through 8 weeks of the season, the story for the Patriots’ offense has been upheaval and inconsistency, and yesterday’s game was more of the same. The offensive line once again struggled to protect Tom Brady effectively, which can be linked to injuries at center, left tackle, and right guard. Brady was efficient when he needed to be, but he did appear to be jittery at times, which is understandable due to the pass rushers on the Browns’ defense. Yet again, Julian Edelman (8 catches for 78 yards and 2 touchdowns) and James White (4 catches for 75 yards) were Brady’s top targets, and came through when he needed them. Edelman was the only Pats’ receiver who appeared to consistently get separation, as evidenced by his two touchdowns in the red zone. White gained most of his yardage on a 59 yard screen pass that came on a crucial third down when Cleveland had cut the lead to 7 points. White’s long catch-and-run got the Pats into the red zone and set up Edelman’s second touchdown. In his debut for the Pats, Mohamed Sanu had 2 receptions for 23 yards, which is not surprising as he has only been with the team for 5 days.

Sony Michel had an efficient day of rushing, as he totaled 74 yards off of 21 carries. Michel was able to find holes to run through, and ran hard for first downs when necessary. Michel’s performance drew criticism from prominent ‘analyst’ Skip Bayless, a frequent critic of Bill Belichick, who opined that the Pats probably regretted picking Michel after seeing what his former teammate Nick Chubb did on the same day.

I really like Sony Michel. I love his former Georgia teammate Nick Chubb, who went 35th overall to Michel’s 31st overall. It’s looking like Belichick made a mistake.

— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) October 27, 2019

People like Bayless are nothing more than talking heads who try to gain attention by saying controversial things, but all I have to say to him is that without Michel’s performance in the 2019 playoffs, there is no chance that the Pats win Super Bowl LIII.

I believe that the Pats’ offense will be fine over the next few weeks, as they’ll receive reinforcements with the return of Shaq Mason, N’Keal Harry, and Isaiah Wynn. According to NFL insiders, the front office is still looking to add playmakers, so there is always a chance that Belichick finds another offensive weapon before the trade deadline.

jules v browns w819
(Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

 

Bonus:

1. Belichick gets to 300 wins

With the victory over Cleveland, Bill Belichick earned his 300th win as a head coach in the NFL. Ironically, he earned his first win when he brought his Browns to play the Pats in Foxborough back in 1991.

Here is a video of team owner Robert Kraft presenting Belichick with the game ball.

2. Color Rush strikes again!

Yesterday’s win also marked the Pats’ sixth win in their Color Rush uniforms, bringing their record to 6-0 in their mono-navy alternates. The Pats will break out this combo one more time this season when they face off against the Chiefs in Week 14.

3. Odell gives TB a gift

Leading up to the game, Odell Beckham Jr. promised to give Tom Brady a pair of Nike cleats made of goat hair, due to #12’s status as the GOAT. Beckham lived up to his word, as he presented Brady with the cleats after the game, which was a gesture that New England’s QB appreciated.

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 20/36 for 259 yards, and 2 touchdowns
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 21 carries for 74 yards
  • Receiving: 8 receptions for 78 yards, and 2 touchdowns
  • Defensive: Jamie Collins Sr. – 13 tackles (including 1.5 sacks)

Browns

  • Passing: Baker Mayfield – 20/31 for 194 yards, 1 touchdown & 1 interception
  • Rushing: Nick Chubb – 20 carries for 131 yards
  • Receiving: Jarvis Landry – 5 receptions for 65 yards
  • Defensive: Joe Schobert – 11 tackles

 

What’s next?: The Pats head down to Baltimore to take on the Ravens (5-2) and their dynamic young quarterback Lamar Jackson on Sunday Night Football.

All aboard the hype train!: Will the Pats derail Cleveland’s season?

Over the last few seasons, the most talked teams in the AFC have generally been the Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs. The topic of conversation shifted entering this season, due to the aggressive moves made by the Cleveland Browns (2-4) to improve their roster. Cleveland added mercurial wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. along with other stars such as Kareem Hunt, Olivier Vernon, and Sheldon Richardson to complement their young core of Baker Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, Myles Garrett, and Nick Chubb. Cleveland has fell short of their title expectations thus far, but their talent alone should make the Patriots worried about their matchup this Sunday.

Here are some things to consider entering this Week 8 contest.

1. Can Belichick’s defense outwit Freddie Kitchen’s offense?

Despite what Bill Belichick’s defense has achieved over the past seven weeks, there are still pundits who choose to dismiss their greatness due to the perceived weakness of their opponents thus far. Hence, playing the Browns’ talented offense should provide the Pats’ defense with a chance to silence their doubters. Following a dominant second half to his rookie season, Baker Mayfield has struggled to begin this season, as he leads the NFL in interceptions through seven weeks. The Pats will need to focus in on Mayfield’s top two weapons, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, who have the potential to wreck the game if given an opportunity. It will be interesting to see how Belichick opts to match up against Beckham and Landry, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine the Patriots double-teaming Beckham with a cornerback and safety, while matching Stephon Gilmore against Landry.

Facing Nick Chubb might be worrisome for the Pats’ defense, as they have been ever so slightly pervious against the run this season, with Frank Gore and Le’Veon Bell achieving success against them. Chubb has effective during Cleveland’s wins (such as their win in Baltimore a few weeks ago), and would help Freddie Kitchens take pressure off of Mayfield. The Pats’ defensive line and ‘Boogeymen’ linebacking corps will need to neutralize Chubb if they want to be successful.

I believe that the key to victory will be getting after Mayfield with an effective pass rush, which could force him to turn the ball over. Just this past week, the Pats intimidated a young quarterback in Sam Darnold with their pass rush and coverage, which caused him to “see ghosts” on the field. At the same time, limiting Cleveland’s weapons will put the Pats in a great position to remain undefeated.

jamie collins v browns w9p.jpg
(Ron Schwane/AP)

2. Can Brady overcome Garrett and the Browns’ defense?

On paper, Cleveland’s defense promises to be the most talented unit the Pats have played since struggling against Buffalo in Week 4. The Pats’ offensive line will have their hands full against Myles Garrett who is tied for the league lead with 9 sacks. Brady’s performance has dipped when faced with consistent pressure, which could play into Cleveland’s hands if the offensive line cannot protect #12.

The Pats’ receiving corps underwent some upheaval this week with the addition of Mohamed Sanu, and the subsequent designation of Josh Gordon to the injured reserve (with the expectation that he will be waived as soon as he’s healthy). If Sanu does play, he should be a good addition to the normal lineup of Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett, with Jakobi Meyers also serving as a complementary piece. The Pats will face a good pair of cornerbacks in Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams, who haven’t been healthy at the same time since Week 3.

I think that it would be smart for Josh McDaniels to target Cleveland’s porous rushing defense which is amongst the NFL’s worst. If Sony Michel can get going, the Pats should be able to milk the clock and limit the number of possessions for the Browns’ offense.

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(Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Bonus: Color Rush!

The Pats will be suiting up in their popular Color Rush alternates for the second time this season when they take on Cleveland on Sunday. Hopefully they will be able to improve to 6-0 all-time while wearing these uniforms.

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(Photo via Getty Images)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • Ryan Izzo (concussion) – Out
  • Matt LaCosse (knee) – Out
  • Rex Burkhead (foot) – Questionable
  • Patrick Chung (heel/chest) – Questionable
  • Julian Edelman (chest) – Questionable
  • Shaq Mason (ankle) – Questionable
  • Gunner Olszewski (ankle/hamstring) – Questionable’

Browns

  • Damarious Randall (hamstring) – Out
  • Kendall Lamm (knee) – Questionable
  • Sheldrick Redwine (not listed) – Questionable

 

Prediction: Patriots 33, Browns 17

Here are my predictions for the NFL’s other Week 8 games (excluding Thursday Night Football)

Last week: 8-5

Seahawks at Falcons: Seahawks

Chargers at Bears: Bears

Giants at Lions: Lions

Jets at Jaguars: Jaguars

Bengals vs Rams: Rams

Buccaneers at Titans: Titans

Eagles at Bills: Eagles

Broncos at Colts: Colts

Cardinals at Saints: Saints

Panthers at 49ers: Panthers

Raiders at Texans: Texans

Packers at Chiefs: Packers

Dolphins at Steelers: Steelers