Patriots lost and it wasn't even close. It was an ugly game from the opening kick-off and terrible play by the Patriots kept them from getting back into the game. The Browns wanted the game more and it showed. The Patriots came out flat and never showed a spark. After three draining games against the Ravens, Chargers and Vikings, the Patriots needed to show some gusto against the Browns, who were just coming off their bye week. That never happened. So let's take a look at what DID happen.
Rob Gronkowski - The rookie tight end had an awful, awful day. I can forgive the opening dropped passes because Tom Brady was throwing at his feet, behind him and everywhere except right between the numbers. However, Gronkowski was unable to be a strong run blocker to open lanes for the running backs. He was unable to slow the rush against Tom Brady. He was botched the kick-off that should have been caught. He didn't go to the ground and ended up fumbling the ball in the Browns Red Zone, which sapped the energy from the Patriots team and they didn't play well after that moment. This is Gronk's first really bad game, but I hope it's his last. He needs to move on because this was a horrendous show by this young tight end.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis - After a fantastic game against the Vikings, The Law Firm did zilch against the Browns. To be fair, the Browns were able to stop the Saints' running game, which is just as good as the Patriots, so BJGE didn't really have a chance to perform. However, when he was given the ball, he was downright awful. Yes, there were very few lanes for him to run through. Yes, he did run into the only Patriots player on the left side of the field when there were zero defenders around him. He had no vision, no drive and no strength. The Patriots need to find a way to maximize his output every week because they can't afford to have him post up terrible games every time they play a good run defense.
Defensive Pressure - Rookie quarterback Colt McCoy had 5 incompletions the whole game. He was not hit. He was not sacked. When he was pursued, the defenders didn't have a chance to catch him. This Patriots team has not had a pass rush since 2007 and it's haunting them. They cannot reach the quarterback and every quarterback they face is carving up their secondary. It's pathetic. Gerard Warren's two sack game seems forever ago.
Tom Brady - He was great in the no huddle. I'll give him that. Other than that, he was ugly. His passes were never on target. They were behind, they were low, they were high. He threw in traffic, he threw in tight coverage, he threw it away. Brady was just so inaccurate that he almost single handedly killed a bunch of Patriots drives. He was lucky that Aaron Hernandez has such fantastic awareness, or else his game statistics would look much worse. He needs to figure out what's wrong with him and he needs to figure it out quickly. The Patriots cannot afford any more of his inaccurate passing and poor decision making.
Patriots Whole Freaking Offense - Yeah. Combine Tom Brady with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and that's a summary of how the day went. They couldn't establish the run. They couldn't establish the pass. Wes Welker was getting jammed at the line all the time. Brandon Tate was nonexistent. Deion Branch was underused and also still injured. The offensive line was giving Brady time, but the Browns were dropping 8 back into coverage and taking away the underneath route because there was no chance of a Patriots run play. It was an awful offensive day.
Patriots Run Defense - Where to start? The Patriots had not let up a 100 yard rusher all season. Peyton Hillis almost made it to 200. The Browns were manhandling the defensive line and Hillis was breaking tackles by the linebackers all day. Sure, Mayo had 10 tackles. They were all 7 yards down field. Hillis could not be stopped and the Patriots were fine with letting him run around the whole game. Newsflash: Running backs don't tire when they don't get hit.
Coaching Staff + Preparation - The Patriots were clearly unprepared for this match-up. The coaching staff decided to put in Mike Wright as a starter against a team that loves to run the ball. Did they not learn anything from Adrian Peterson's incredible first quarter last week? Mike Wright cannot stop the run. To make matters worse, he was often matched up against Joe Thomas, one of the best left tackles in the league, meaning that was a one on one match-up that the Patriots lost every time. It's no surprise that Hillis made a killing running to the left. When the team finally put in Gerard Warren at RDE, Hillis had to fight for yardage to the left. What was the result? He started taking it to the right against rookie LDE Brandon Deaderick, who also struggled against Peterson. When the Patriots put in Ron Brace, the run defense improved. This team just couldn't put anything together and was just outplayed for 60 minutes.
Read the rest after the jump!
The Players' Health - Vince Wilfork, Brandon Meriweather, Kyle Arrington, Stephen Gostkowski and many more had to come out of the game for an injury break. Add that to the players already out for the game and it's not good. This team needs to be healthy entering the stretch of the season and it seems like all of the players are falling apart.
3rd Down Play - Both offensive and defensive 3rd down performance was terrible. The Patriots converted 3 of 11 third down conversions. That's not going to win any games. They were their best in the no-huddle, trying to gain yardage and first downs with one or two plays. I don't know why they didn't use that for more of the game. On 3rd and short, they would run the ball. Guaranteed. Yes, BJGE has been successful in the past. Yes, everyone knows that BJGE loves to run behind the left guard and tackle and try to plunge for the first down. Yes, the Browns knew that and prepared for it. Yes, the Browns executed and stopped it. Ugly all around. On defense, the Browns converted 7 of 13 third down conversations. That's over 50% and is unacceptable. This team needs to figure out how to get the defense of the field and how to defend the underneath pass.
Utilization of the Patriots Offensive Weapons - Aaron Hernandez was underused. Wes Welker was getting jammed. Brandon Tate never ran over the top. Deion Branch was quiet. The Patriots didn't adjust at all to the defense presented to them. The Patriots wanted to throw the ball and the Browns knew this. They dropped 8 back into coverage and challenged Brady to throw the ball. That had linebackers take away the underneath passes. They had safeties take away the over the top passes. They had cornerbacks take away the receivers. The Patriots never had a chance. I didn't see Tate run downfield to try and open up the field. I didn't see many sideline routes that had a chance of success. The offensive plays weren't giving the receivers much of a chance to get open. It was hard to watch.
Aaron Hernandez - What can be said? He had his first two NFL touchdowns and he was the best player on the Patriots. He played hard and he didn't give up. His number wasn't called as much as it should have been called, and when it wasn't, it didn't put him in the best position to succeed, but he made the most out of his opportunities. I don't know why the Patriots have shied away from using him in the offense. He needs to be the big receiver for the Patriots and if he is used, he will help the offense produce.
Danny Woodhead - Another guy who played the whole time. He generated a run game when BJGE could not. He was a receiver. He did everything that was asked of him and he helped the offense move the chains. He's not an every down back, but he's perfect for the two minute drill. He had another great game and is the reason why this offense keeps defenses off balance. Woodhead has the skill to make the most out of nothing. When he can run, he opens up the passing game. When the passing game starts working, that leaves space for BenJarvus Green-Ellis to run the ball and wear down the defense. Woodhead should be starting over BJGE because Woodhead is more able to make a lot out of nothing. Bring in BJGE as the muscle and to wear down the defense, but Woodhead should be used to start the offense.
No Huddle Offense - This worked beautifully. Apart from a Rob Gronkowski fumble and a holding penalty on Rob Gronkowski and a some terrible Tom Brady throws to open up the second half, this no huddle offense worked well. The Browns couldn't adjust and the Patriots were able to move the ball down the field. Yes, I'm struggling to find things that went well this game.
This was a terrible game by the offense, defense, special teams and the coaching staff. I don't think I've seen a game this terrible in a long time (Yes, it was worse that the Wild Card Ravens game. That was Brady's fault for giving the Ravens great field position on turnovers and the defense actually played well, given its circumstances). Hopefully this team got the uglies out of its system. Hopefully the coaching staff lights some fires under their feet during practice this week. This team needs to regroup.
It's a long season and it's no time to panic. The Browns beat the defending Super Bowl champions two weekends ago. The Patriots just need to get everything under control and revamp both the offense and the defense.