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Patriots vs. Browns: Fan Notes from the Game

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Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots’ 27-13 victory over the Cleveland Browns.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at New England Patriots Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots took out the Cleveland Browns yesterday in a game that had all the hype in the world when the schedule first came out, but when reality set in and everyone remembered that the Patriots are the Patriots and the Browns are the Browns, it was once another game that was over before the first quarter ended. Neither rain nor wind nor an over-hyped offense will stop this New England team from taking care of business.

  • I’m not going to lie...I’m really struggling this year writing these Fan Notes without sounding repetitive. Almost every single game of 2019 has more or less been over in the first quarter, and from there on out it’s more a matter of wondering how many turnovers the defense will force or whether or not the opposing team will score a point. I’m not complaining - far from it, I haven’t had a single heart attack this season and I couldn’t be happier - but I can’t help but notice my creative juices are sitting stagnant in a tepid vat of grease right now, and my breakdowns of these games are starting to look like the Patriots offense: just good enough to get the job done.
  • I absolutely hate the 4PM time slot for NFL games. When your team plays at 1PM, you’re done by 4 or so and get on with your day. With primetime games, you have a full free day before you have to park your keister. But that 4PM slot is just smack in the middle of the day, rendering both sides of it useless. And there are a whole slew of them coming down the pike over the next few months - the Pats don’t play at 1PM again until mid-December.
  • You know, since I’m so productive on Sundays anyway.
  • The big plus about the later game is that we get Tony Romo, about as refreshing a break as it gets from Dan Fouts.
  • I could have gone to this game; I had a bead on face value tickets. I declined, as I had plans last night that I had absolutely no desire to go to but had already committed. I was stewing about it all week, until I saw the forecast. There was once a time where I would have had an absolute blast watching this game soaked and hydrated from the stands...but no more. No thanks.
  • New England continues to show more Cover 1 and Cover 0 fronts than I can ever remember from a Bill Belichick coached team. It’s not only a strong vote of confidence in the secondary, but it also shows a tremendous amount of faith in the linebackers, who seem to be the ones dictating whether to follow through with the blitz or drop back into coverage.
  • I also don’t think I can ever remember a team turning the ball over three times on three straight offensive plays. Nick Chubb getting the ball kicked out of his hands by his own lineman and the Patriots returning it for a touchdown is the Cleveland Brownsiest thing I can possibly think of.*
  • This is exactly what I thought until a few plays later, when Lawrence Guy somehow managed to intercept what is basically a handoff. I though the pinnacle of lineman tomfoolery came in 2010, when Dan Connelly took a kick return 71 yards to set the Patriots up on the four yard line against the Packers. But I’ve now seen a defensive lineman come up with the ball on a dump pass somehow. What a world!
  • It’s funny, because without those three turnovers, this is a game. Cleveland won the battle at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, and for a good chunk of the game New England had no answers for that Nick Chubb stretch run. Chubb averaged 6.6 yards per carry and finished with 131 on the day.
  • Eventually, however, the Patriots spread their linebackers out and used a lot more Patrick Chung as that safety/linebacker hybrid to shore up the middle. When that shift occurred, the cutback lanes weren’t there and Van Noy and/or Collins set the edge enough to neutralize the play.
  • Which left the game on the arm of Baker Mayfield, who remains as inconsistent as a pint of Guinness at a phony Irish pub. Some of the throws he made were absolute lasers, and others were head scratchers. As of this writing, I’m not sure if the defensive strategy was to give up the run as the Patriots were up three scores and were perfectly content to allow for longer drives because they knew the defense would stiffen up when it mattered; will have to go back and rewatch some film.
  • Freddie Kitchens looks like the guy in your hometown who has been banned from virtually every convenience store in the area for passing bad checks.
  • I take absolutely no shame in admitting that Tommy B doesn’t look great right now. That’s just a reality. It’s OK to admit that. Rain and slippery conditions aside, he’s a little inaccurate and throws a lot of passes into the ground. It would be foolish to put it entirely on him and ignore an offensive line that’s now 3/5ths backups, or ignore the complete lack of weapons he has at the receiver position right now, but that doesn’t absolve Brady of some of the onus. He has been overthrowing/underthrowing guys and turtling before he should on potential sacks.
  • I also take absolutely no shame in admitting that I’m not even remotely worried about it and that by the time the playoffs roll around, this team is going to have a formidable offense. It may not be dominant, but they’ll put points on the board.
  • If you’re a big pub trivia person, I’d remember that Mohammed Sanu’s first ever catch as a Patriot was a fourth down conversion. Seems like the kind of thing that would pop up randomly in 10 years.
  • Is it me, or has Jake Bailey kind of fallen off as of late with the big punts? He was an absolutely monster early in the season, but as of late they don’t seem to be going as far as they used to, and he has a few shanks as well. It might be a scenario where he’s being told to go for hang time over distance since the gunners are solid in New England, but I don’t know.
  • Something very strange happened yesterday, and I can’t quite figure it out; there was a Cleveland Brown player holding the football in the New England end zone. Anybody know what the rule is on that? Been a while since I saw that.
  • Seriously; I was way more pissed than I should have been at that Browns TD. The defense isn’t going to pitch a shutout every game, and they’re allowed to give up points....just not more than one TD a game, OK? OK.
  • Illegal hands to the face is an absolutely absurd penalty. If you want to flag a defender for accidentally brushing the face mask of a juking, bobbing defender as he runs his route, then fine But just make it five yards; that it’s a new set of downs is ridiculous.
  • I had to go back and look at the box score to see that the Browns were only down one score going into the locker room at halftime, as it felt like a much bigger gap. At no point was I concerned about this game being a loss, and that has kind of been a theme of the year so far.
  • Which is why I’m doubling down on a note I made when the Patriots played Washington a few weeks ago that this team will benefit tremendously from a loss. Even better if it’s a bad loss. They have a road game in primetime coming up this Sunday against the Ravens, and if Baltimore hands it to them on the national stage just before they head into the bye and have two weeks to stew over it, it might do them a world of good. That’s not to say this team needs any outside motivation to play well - but I think a loss is exactly what the Patriots need to really turn a corner.
  • Wasn’t allowing coaches to challenge Pass Interference a great rule change, guys? Such a great use of time!
  • I will say this: as of this note, I think that there are teams in the NFC that will give the Patriots all kinds of problems. The Saints are one. The Cowboys, depending on which unit shows up, could be another if they’re on. The Seahawks, and even the Vikings, could be trouble. But the good news is that the Patriots won’t play those teams this season, and if they do they’ll only play one of them. There really isn’t an AFC team that scares me in January in Foxboro.
  • Remember when this game was the AFC Championship Game preview?

New England is now 8-0, once again guaranteeing another season at at least .500. They finish out the year with home games against the Bengals, Bills, and Dolphins, which means that if they completely and utterly implode over the 2nd half of the season, they’re still going to finish 10-6 or 11-5. That’s insane.