Patriots vs. Browns thumbs up, thumbs down: Julian Edelman, defense make plays in wet win

Andy Hart
October 27, 2019 - 7:35 pm
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FOXBOROUGH -- The rainy, wet conditions may have created a different feel, but the end result was the same Sunday evening at Gillette Stadium as the Patriots (8-0) used big plays and another pretty dominant defensive effort to take care of business against the at-times overmatched Browns (2-5) to the tune of the 27-13 victory.

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New England’s defense took advantage of three Browns’ first-quarter turnovers on three consecutive offensive snaps – including Dont’a Hightower’s 26-yard scoop-and-score touchdown – to pull out to a 17-0 lead after 15 minutes despite another somewhat sluggish start by the Tom Brady-led offense.

Things tightened up a bit by early in the third quarter when Cleveland’s opening drive of the second half resulted in a 38-yard Austin Seibert field goal as the visitor’s pulled within a score at 17-10.

New England answered the score in impressive fashion with a drive of its own, highlighted by a 59-yard James White screen pass that helped set up a 14-yard touchdown pass to Julian Edelman, his second score of the night, to push the score to 24-10.

Before turning the page to next Sunday night’s test in Baltimore against the Ravens, here are some of the personnel highs and lows from the solid win over the Browns.

Thumbs up

Julian Edelman – Brady’s favorite target continues to be by far the quarterback’s best friend on the field and most efficient option. While things weren’t exactly clicking in the direction of new target Mohamed Sanu, Edelman hauled in eight of the 11 passes thrown his way for 78 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Edelman gave the Patriots a 17-0 advantage in the first quarter and then answered the call when the Browns pulled within a score in the third quarter, a 14-yard score giving the home squad the more comfortable lead.

Playmaking Defense – New England’s dominant defense has been a permanent fixture on the thumbs-up list all season. Early on against Cleveland the unit displayed its many strengths in a three-play series. First came a Nick Chubb fumble that turned into the Hightower score. On the first play of Cleveland’s ensuing series Chubb broke off a 44-yard run, only to be chased down by Jonathan Jones, who saved a touchdown and forced a fumble that was recovered by Devin McCourty. On the Browns’ next snap on the following series, Lawrence Guy picked off a Baker Mayfield shovel pass to set up the Patriots at the Browns 11, leading to a short touchdown drive. Though the unit allowed Chubb to pick up chunk yards on the ground, it gave Mayfield fits and continued to make big plays on the way to a relatively dominating victory. Opposing offenses are almost falling apart in the face of the Patriots defense in recent weeks.

Jamie Collins – The veteran linebacker may not have had the big plays of Hightower, Jones or Guy, but he had a damn productive night in the rain. As he’s done all season as arguably the Patriots best all-around defender, Collins contributed in a variety of ways to the latest impressive win. He finished with a game-high 11 tackles, all solo stops. He also had a 9-yard sack of Mayfield and another 10-yard half sack late in the game, adding two tackles for a loss and a pair of QB hits to his stat line. The Patriots almost look they have extra defenders on the field at times and a big part of that is Collins’ ability to make plays all over the front. Plenty of defensive players deserve a lot of credit each week – Adam Butler had a pair of sacks against Cleveland -- but Collins is always in the middle of the success it seems.

Thumbs down

Tom Brady/Pass protection – With Shaq Mason out of action, it left James Ferentz to start a right guard, the third backup starter on the New England line. The results were somewhat predictable as the front struggled in both run blocking and, most importantly, pass protection that left Brady striving to get comfortable in the pocket. It was another game with multiple occasions where Brady had to quickly throw the ball into the turf while shying away from oncoming pressure. He was sacked three times and hit three times, but felt far more pressure than that. His best drive of the night included two screen passes for the bulk of the yards. Overall Brady finished completing 20 of 36 passes (55.6 percent) for 259 yards with the two scores –  he was fortunate to get away with a dropped interception in the end zone in the first quarter – and a 96.9 passer rating. It wasn’t a great night for Brady or his blockers.

Kicking game – When a team is winning and executing at the rate the Patriots are, a few mistakes in one area tend to stand out. New England’s kickoff team had a couple ugly errors early. Jake Bailey’s second kickoff of the game went out of bounds inside the 5-yard line after the Hightower touchdown, setting Cleveland up at the 40-yard line. After New England’s next first-quarter touchdown, the kickoff team was called for a delay-of-game penalty prior to the kickoff. Mike Nugent and the field goal unit then added to the issues when his 29-yard field goal attempt late in the second quarter was blocked. Nugent then missed a 34-yard attempt wide left late in the fourth quarter. Not a good evening for Joe Judge’s kicking units.

Run defense – For the second week in a row and third time this season the tackling and run defense were one of the few areas of inefficiency for New England. Despite his two fumbles, Chubb churned out early yards on the ground, including a 44-yard scamper that turned into Jones’ forced fumble. Chubb is a good young back who runs hard. He had 10 carries for 92 yards in the first half. The Patriots front had its issues keeping him contained, as he finished the wet night with 20 carries for 131 yards (6.6 avg.). Although his fumbles were clearly part of why the Patriots cruised to victory, Chubb regularly found room to run against the New England defense.

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