The New England Patriots and Browns have several things in common. Both sported 2-3-0 records and have a good running attack. And while Cleveland has scored 30 more points coming into this contest, the Pats are one of the league’s stingiest defenses including a shutout over Detroit the week before.
A loss by either team would place them that much further down in their division. Since 2000, only 11 clubs have begun their season at 2-4 and ended up making the playoffs. A lot of things have to go right: health, schedule, momentum, luck, and a returning starting quarterback as neither club is using their starter.
In the end, the Browns gave up four turnovers, costly penalties coupled with a very stagnant offensive effort as the Patriots won 38-15. Cleveland was outscored 28-9 in the second half. Cleveland possesses the best pair of running backs in the league and yet only 16 rushing plays were a question mark.
DE Myles Garrett had a sack/strip fumble in the first quarter to make his total 62.5 which passed Clay Matthews, Sr.’s total of 62. Garrett would add another sack in the second half.
So who played well for the Browns? Who didn’t?
DE Myles Garrett - Got the franchise record for career sacks in the secnd quarter when he slapped the ball out of QB Bailey Zappe’s hand which created a fumble that Cleveland recovered. Midway through the second stanza, he nailed Tyquan Thornton on an end around for a loss. Did have the offsides penalty that gave the Pats a first down. Had his second sack with just over five minutes to play. Finished with five total tackles, and two tackles for loss. He would later leave the game with a minor shoulder injury.
K Cade York - Good bounce back game for the kicker who already had his slump for the year. His kickoffs were just as ordered and he made all three field goals including a 51-yarder. Nice rebound.
S John Johnson - Was in a good position with coverage and made several good tackles when the runner made it to the third level. Made seven tackles with one tackle for loss. Nailed RB Rhamondre Stevenson with 3:11 left in the third quarter on a third-and-two which forced New England to punt at midfield.
QB Jacoby Brissett - Right off, Brissett tosses an interception which led to the Patriots’ first points. With 13:54 left in the second quarter after the Myles Garrett strip sack/fumble, Brissett was stopped cold on the QB sneak on the fourth-and-one. Later in the same quarter with just over seven minutes until the half, the Browns had a third-and-seven from New England’s 49. WR Amari Cooper had an inside position on CB Marcus Jones just past the sticks, but Brissett’s throw was wildly tossed high without any leap effort from Cooper. This killed a good drive which now ended in a punt. With 26 ticks left with a third-and-one, the throw to Cooper wasn’t even close. Went 9-17 for 91 yards in the first half. Down 24-6, Njoku had beaten LB Raekwon McMillan in the middle of the end zone with safety Kyle Dugger bearing down. Brissett threw it too high and missed the sure touchdown. Also threw wide to DPJ on the next drive who was open in the end zone. Finished with 21 completions on 45 attempts for 266 yards and sacked four times.
Linebacker play - As identified as an issue for this defense, the linebackers just aren’t getting into position to make plays. With the first-half touchdown run by RB Rhamondre Stevenson, JOK was on a stunt to the right and Jacob Phillips was blocked off the play. The result was a wide-open middle. In the third quarter facing a third-and-five from the Browns’ 45, Zappe was flushed from the pocket and then hit the only receiver available on the right side in front of Sione Takitaki who made a minimal attempt to cover his man. On New England’s final touchdown run inside the 10, Phillips was manhandled by OG Mike Onwenu and sealed out of the play which went right past him. Did you see where Phillips was on the 19-yard jet sweep touchdown right after the punt fumble? Tyquan Thornton was running right to left and when he got to Zappe the QB handed him the ball on the dead run. The rest of the offensive line went right including a fake pitch to the running back. Phillips bit the entire show and by the time Thornton was already into the second level, Phillips realized what was happening and all he could do is become a spectator to the score.
Defensive penalties - Two critical pass interference penalties in the first half killed great defensive efforts. The Patriots had a third-and-seven with the ball heaved into the end zone. While Greg Newsome blanketed WR Jakobi Meyers, when the ball was on its descent all Newsome had to do was turn around. If so, he would have either intercepted the ball or at the very least batted it away. Greedy Williams’ P.I. penalty was also on a third down pass attempt to Meyers to which Williams grabbed his man on a very poorly-thrown ball that would have become a punt instead of a new set of downs. In the second half, Garrett gave the Patriots a first down on an offsides penalty which ultimately became another field goal.
DC Joe Woods - Playing a 6-4-1 leaving the middle open, tight ends who go down the field without a soul near him, could not stop most third downs, allowed the third-string quarterback to look like an experienced veteran instead of being a rookie, soft zones in the deep center, minimal pass rush, rarely blitzed an inexperienced QB (was it mentioned he is a rookie?), linebackers getting sealed out of key running situations. Leave anything out?
Wide receiver play - DPJ got a dumb penalty by batting a ball out of bounds instead of jumping on the fumbled ball for what would have been a gain. Amari Cooper dropped a key pass in the third quarter which would have been a huge gain instead of a third-and-long. Cooper’s first good reception was a nine-yard gain midway through the fourth quarter. DPJ’s 37-yard reception was with seven minutes left in the game. Michael Woods and David Bell’s first catches were also in the final quarter. Why did it take so long to get these guys involved in the offense?
WR Anthony Schwartz - Three targets, two passes on point, two pass routes beyond the first down marker, and two dropped passes with both hands on the ball. The question is not why he maintains a Browns’ roster spot, but why is he even in the league?
KR Chester Rogers - The fumble on the punt was inexcusable. If the sun is in your eyes, let the ball drop and let it land where it may. Went right through the bread basket and into the waiting hands of special teams ace Brenden Schooler who then offered the trophy to Coach Bill Belichick. On the ensuing kickoff after New England traded his gaffe for seven points, instead of taking the touchback he ran it out only to be nailed at the 17. His two punt returns netted seven yards. Five kickoff returns for a 21.2 average. Touchbacks get more yardage just FYI.
Turnovers - Two interceptions and two fumbles will never get you a win. New England scored 24 points off these mistakes. The Browns lost by 23. You do the math.
Milk Bones – All starts with cold beer because no good story begins with someone eating a salad
OG Hjalte Froholdt - Came into the game in the second quarter when Wyatt Teller went down with a calf injury and played well. Made the tackle that saved a touchdown in the fourth quarter after the Brissett fumble. Had one sack attributed to him, but in all fairness had blocked his man deep out of the play to which Brissett then ran right into his man when another defender pushed him out of the pocket.
DT Taven Bryan - He made several good tackles including being part of the goal line stand in the second quarter that ended up being three points for the Patriots instead of seven. With just nine minutes to play was able to flush out Zappe on a key fourth-and-nine which was an incomplete pass.
TE David Njoku - Did not lead the Browns in receiving yards and had just 58-yards, but he was always making a play when the ball was thrown his way. Had a key third-and-five conversion for 24 yards in the third quarter which kept a drive going. His deep left catch for 33 yards early in the game led to the Browns’ first points.
Do you feel Joe Woods should be fired?
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Wait until the bye week to make that determination
Wait until the season is over to decide