The biggest takeaway for today was the return of Tom Brady. After two weeks of limited offensive output, with no offense towards Brissett who went 1-1, we saw what the offense looks like when the playbook. The Patriots got big contributions from their offseason acquisitions, with Martellus Bennett scoring three times and Chris Hogan picking up his first career 100 yard game. The defense was ferocious, forcing a safety and getting a 2nd half interception. As the Patriots prepare for a home game against the Cincinnati Bengals followed by road games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills before their Week 9 bye.
Defense holds of the league's best rushers to under 2.0 YPC: Isaiah Crowell came into this game averaging 6.5 YPC. The Patriots defensive line depth was stretched thin to the point of having to call up practice squad DT Woodrow Hamilton. Despite that, the team held Crowell to 13 carries for 22 yards (1.8 YPC) and a long of 6 yards. Stopping the run was critical for the Patriots, who allowed only 13 points on the day. The Patriots defense overall held the Browns to 28 yards rushing on 21 carries. When the defense performs this well against the run, no single player deserve credit but rather the entire team itself.
Dont'a Hightower obliterates Cody Kessler:
Cleveland Browns Third String QB Cody Kessler Leaves Game With Injury After Taking Big Hit From Pats Dont’a Hightower pic.twitter.com/3tVbPymEBS— SportsCast (@SportsCast_THN) October 9, 2016
After the Patriots backed up the Browns to their own 10, the Patriots called on Hightower to blitz up the A-gap. He shot through the gap so quick that Kessler had no chance to get the pass off. The hit caused the ball to go backwards and through the end zone for a safety. Kessler had to be helped off the field and did not return.
Two TE offense: Both Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett had big games for the Patriots. Gronk had 5 catches for 109 yards, two of them going for 30+ yards. Marty B caught 6 passes for 67 yards and 3 touchdowns. The duo of Gronk and Marty B may be the Patriots best TE tandem that Brady has ever worked with. Either TE can carry the offense, but having both creates even more mismatches on the field. The offense is getting healthy and the sky is the limit for this unit.
Red Zone defense needs work moving forward: The Patriots top weakness on defense comes down to the Red Zone. The Browns offense went 2 for 2 in the Red Zone. Patriots red zone defense has allowed a touchdown in 8 of their 10 red zone possessions. That could be an issue against teams that can sustain drives, like the two teams they'll play the next two weeks. The Patriots have only allowed offenses to get 2 red zone possessions per game, which is why they're one of the top scoring defenses in the league.