Bill Belichick’s first win as an NFL head coach arrived against the New England Patriots.
His 300th, including playoffs, arrived against the Cleveland Browns.
New England outlasted Cleveland, 27-13, Sunday in Foxborough as Belichick reached the milestone against the team that hired him in 1991. George Halas’ 324 and Don Shula’s 347 are the Hall of Famers ahead for Belichick, whose Patriots stand unbeaten at the halfway point of the regular season.
Here’s a touchdown of observations from what went into it.
Debut of Sanu
New England acquired Mohamed Sanu from the Atlanta Falcons in exchange for a 2020 second-round draft choice on Tuesday. And after three practices behind Gillette Stadium, the wide receiver got to play inside of it.
Sanu’s initial pair of targets from quarterback Tom Brady would fall incomplete. But the debut saw Sanu work both on the inside and out, producing crack blocks, a fourth-and-4 conversion and 23 yards. Joining the Rutgers product on Sunday’s receiver depth chart were Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski and captain Matthew Slater. Taking the lion’s share would be Edelman’s eight catches for 78 yards and two touchdowns.
The Patriots elected not to elevate a member of the practice squad to the active roster by Saturday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline. Instead, with first-round wideout N’Keal Harry eligible to be activated from injured reserve this week, New England went with 52 players and only six inactives versus Cleveland.
Ankle injury leads to a changing of the right guard for New England
Only center Ted Karras has played more offensive snaps for the Patriots this fall than right guard Shaq Mason. But an ankle injury to Mason, who’d previously checked in for 99 percent of the snaps, left him questionable on the final injury report and scratched 90 minutes before kickoff.
In Mason’s absence against the Browns on Sunday, the Patriots turned to James Ferentz. It signified the first career start for the son of former Browns O-line coach and current Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz. The 30-year-old Ferentz had spent the bulk of the past two seasons on New England’s practice squad, and was released and re-signed prior to the September opener.
Also active were reserve offensive linemen Jermaine Eluemunor and Korey Cunningham.
Pair of Georgia running backs cross paths in the rain
Sony Michel and Nick Chubb were taken four picks apart one draft ago. And prior to then, the future Patriot and the future Brown shared a backfield as well as a residence at the University of Georgia.
They’d share a waterlogged football on Sunday.
Michel rushed 10 times for 43 yards by halftime versus Cleveland, finishing the game with 21 carries for 74 yards. On the other side, Chubb had his opening two rushes versus New England end in fumbles on the way to finishing with gouging 131 ground yards. The first turnover became a touchdown for linebacker Dont’a Hightower. The second wiped out a 48-yard gain.
Capping off Cleveland’s three-snap, three-turnover sequence
The Browns handed the ball back to New England on three consecutive offensive snaps before the first frame was over. And after Chubb’s fumbles were jarred by the likes of defensive tackle Lawrence Guy and cornerback Jonathan Jones, the shovel pass would be brought out.
But Guy again had a hand in it.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield’s short toss to wideout Jarvis Landry would be intercepted behind the line of scrimmage by the 6-foot-4, 315-pound Guy. It hit the books as the third turnover in 70 seconds of offensive possession for the Browns.
Patriots’ defense concedes its second passing touchdown of 2019
The Patriots have now scored four touchdowns on defense this season. And entering Sunday, the unit had conceded three touchdowns.
Just one of those went by way of the pass.
But Hightower found himself just beyond his coverage depth against Browns tight end Demetrius Harris midway through the second quarter. The veteran linebacker, with a TD of his own on the evening, let one up from 21 yards out to Harris. New England’s previous touchdown catch allowed came courtesy of the New York Giants’ Golden Tate on Oct. 10.
Loud blocked kick ends quietly
New England’s chance to make it a 20-7 score before intermission resulted in a thwack.
Kicker Mike Nugent’s 29-yard attempt met Browns cornerback Denzel Ward. But the blocked field goal off the left side of the protection did not give way to points the other direction. Cleveland ran seven plays on the ensuing drive before heading into the locker room for halftime, and didn’t run a play in the red zone until nine minutes into the third quarter.
Helping the cause as the clock ticked down was Patriots defensive lineman Adam Butler’s sack for a loss of 10. Undrafted out of Vanderbilt in 2017, Butler is up to a career-high 4.5 sacks on the campaign. Also setting a new standard in that department Sunday was linebacker Jamie Collins. The ex-Browns and ex-Patriots linebacker has reached his career-high six sacks through only eight games.